We woke up on January 28th to our phones buzzing and our Facebook feeds exploding. We work in refugee resettlement and unaccompanied minor programs all over the US. We are directors, social workers, case managers, psychiatrists, mental health clinicians and our clients are crying and our staff are terrified. Those of us who are immigration attorneys don’t know whether we should drive to the nearest airport or not. We are stunned. We are muted. How could this happen after 15 years of working quietly in a field that few ever asked or cared about. Why now create an enemy out of the most vulnerable people on earth?
120 days of suspending the US Refugee Resettlement program means very little to most, as there is still so much confusion about what the process is. Talks of “vetting”, “strengthening the process”, “ensuring out boarders are safe” are dominating people’s narratives. But this is a guise. Refugees have been coming to the US through this program since 1948 when Congress passed the Displaced Person’s Act, taking in an initial 650,000 displaced Europeans. Since that time, an average of 40,000 to 80,000 refugees have been resettled yearly from all over the world. That’s 70 years of refugees!
And guess what…they’re not terrorists. Not a single refugee resettled through the US Resettlement program since 9/11 when the data has been collected, has been charged with a terrorist-related death. Zero. 23 Americans were killed by toddlers last year. TODDLERS!
Here is a picture of some of us. Yes, many of us are refugees and immigrants ourselves. We speak dozens of languages and have heard thousands of accounts of loss, torture, genocide and survival. We have seen people grow and thrive and become fully human again, becoming some of the most active members in our community.
To think that shutting down the US Refugee Resettlement program for 120 days is helping our national safety is dangerous and twisted rhetoric. We hope these stories help humanize these people who have suffered so much already and deserve our respect and support. We also hope you find ways to act out against these injustices in your community.