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reasonable to resettle refugees in America

The Syrian refugee crisis coinciding with America’s Presidential Campaigns has brought the emotional debate over refugees into the political arenas of nearly every state and over the internet. Candidates and conservative journalists have placed fear of terrorism and radicalization in front of voters while liberals in this country and abroad use compassion and sympathy in an attempt to play the heartstrings of ordinarily big-hearted Americans. While Women of the World obviously believes in our capacity to serve refugees and ensure their benefit to society and has few barriers to the amazing stories of survival of our new refugee neighbors, we want to win both hearts and minds, to show that it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America.

One of the first forays into understanding if it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America was Intelligence Squared’s debate on the subject of Should the US let in 100,000 Syrian Refugees? Intelligence Squared Debates are Oxford-style debates where two debaters argue for the motion and two debaters argue against the motion. In this case, Robert Ford (Sr. Fellow, Middle East Inst. & Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Syria) and David Miliband (President & CEO, International Rescue Committee & Fmr. U.K. Foreign Secretary) argued for the motion while David Frum (Senior Editor, The Atlantic) and Jessica Vaughan (Dir. of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies) argued against.

While there were still a great number of appeals to emotion in this debate, the team for the motion, especially David Miliband took on the difficult side of his argument, that it was reasonable to resettle refugees in America. He argued that “it’s right thing to do, that it’s a practical thing to do, and that it’s a smart thing to do.”

The Economic Benefits of Refugee Resettlement

It is the right thing to do, not only morally, but because of the benefit that refugees have brought to our country. Rationally it is unfair to cherry pick the few violent or the entrepreneurial geniuses in either the first or second generation but instead understand the trends of refugee resettlement in the bulk of the distribution. That analysis in a 2012 Cleveland, Ohio study of resettled refugees showed a 10-fold economic benefit above the cost of refugee services and a similar study in 2014 in Denmark also yielded positive economic benefit. Only Jordan netted an economic detriment from the local refugee camp structure where instead of putting individuals to work in local communities (by the numbers an impossible task), infrastructure like water was overwhelmed by large numerical increases. Women of the World is working on an innovative way to track these hard numbers for resettled refugees in Utah, a state where low unemployment makes job advancement even more difficult for workers with fewer native skills.

Efficient and Effective Refugee Service

Women of the World and other service providers are accountable to the second part of Mr. Miliband’s argument, that it is practical to take in refugees. Communities across America have organizations across the public, private, non-profit, and religious spectrum that give refuge to the disenfranchised and poor. If there is a homelessness issue or high unemployment, a community will not be burdened beyond its means. In Utah, organizations like Mr. Miliband’s IRC and the Catholic Community Service resettle refugees, organizations like Women of the World and numerous LDS institutions help to take care of basic needs, employment, and service in transition from resettlement to active citizenship. Organizations like the Utah Health and Human Rights further serve needs like PTSD therapy and the Maliheh Clinic serves basic physiological health issues.

Like all activities in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, refugee service must perform its business processes both efficiently and effectively, that is it must meet budgets and schedules (efficient) and achieve outcomes (effective). Successful non-profits produce results with the lowest possible overhead and have diverse funding sources to ensure continued success in challenging political or economic times. As the below quoted stat from Mr. Miliband shows, refugee service is certainly efficient…

The direct federal cost of services and benefits associated with resettling 100,000 refugees in this country — let me tell you what it is. It’s 1.4 cents per American per day. That’s the direct federal cost of services and benefits. It’s true that that doesn’t include health care costs or school costs. But nor does it include the taxes that Syrians pay when they work.

Hearts and Minds

Finally, Mr. Miliband argues that it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America because it the smart thing to do, a strategic globalization ploy to eliminate ISIS marketing that theirs is a campaign for Muslims against the anti-Muslim west. Accepting refugees begins to win the hearts and minds counterinsurgency campaign. This is a long-term play that, like building schools for girls in the Muslim world, will not make large gains in the near term, but is likely the only way to secure the peace.

While I feel this was a well-argued and ultimately successful debate on the side of both reason and emotion for the pro refugee resettlement team, it was not the best performance by the against side. The appeal to fear was far too great and their strongest argument, that refugee assistance is hyper-local and what works for Salt Lake City or Cleveland may not work for Atlanta or Phoenix was debated but the figures that were given, Foodstamp assistance, was well-parried in the rebuttal round that showed that self-reliance was improving through time, a similar result to what Women of the World has seen.

reasonable to resettle refugees in America
Arguing both the hearts and minds of this argument does not yield a clear victory. As the online poll and comments show a decided objection to resettling refugees in America. The opponents largely will forego the economic and counterinsurgency positive outcome effectiveness delivered efficiently in time and cost for a greater sense of security.

The world is being terrorized and fear and a desire for security are legitimate emotions or reactions. Our allies and the United States are taking military and diplomatic actions to address threats. The conversation that America needs to be having is where do we legitimately draw the line where our collective fear is going to cause us to act or not act, across all of the military, diplomatic, and humanitarian issues. Are the potential benefits and ethical upsides of humanitarian action reasonable to expect and worth it against the threat of the potential security losses? I am interested in having this conversation and believe that Americans are good neighbors, courageous, and in possession of the greatest ideal a country has ever been built upon. This is our American exceptionalism and the wellspring that will make America continue to be great.

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Women of the World needs your support!
Supporting refugee women in achieving their dreams!

On Thursday, March 20, 2014, Women of the World (WoW) is participating in Love Utah, Give Utah 2014, a statewide event raising funds for non-profits that make our state great!

WoW has been very successful in helping refugee women reach self-sufficiency since its beginnings in 2010.  Refugees flee war and genocide and are saved by communities like South Salt Lake City.  There are over 40,000 refugees in Utah, with more coming everyday due to the ongoing violence in places like Syria and South Sudan.

We are a Salt Lake City-based charity supporting refugee women integration through our programs that:

  • Teach practical English language skills,Women of the World fundraiser
  • Partner with local financial institutions and employers on job skills workshops and
    small-business development
  • Develop human rights advocacy customized for the individuals housing, immigration, health, or legal needs.

For our refugee spokeswoman (see below), Social Pal from Burma, WoW is building on her excitement for education, helping to place her with the right post-secondary opportunities.

Women of the World has earned several distinctions including: Google Grants, UWABC Grant, Guidestar Transparency in Non-Profits Award,  the Utah Women’s Giving Circle, and the Refugee Services Office Grant.

WoW is also the proud recipient of the 2013 Salt Lake City Human Rights Award.

This is where we need your help.

We are currently seeking donors to build our crowdfunding campaign. All proceeds generated through our efforts will benefit, Women of the World, a registered 501(c)(3) charity.  Simple use our “http://loveutgiveut.razoo.com/story/Womenoftheworld” link to donate anytime before or on March 20th.

If we can bring more information to your consideration or if you or someone you know would like to personally join our team our contact info is listed below.

Women of the World – Tax ID: 27-3826125
Organization page:  http://womenofworld.org/,
Love Utah, Give Utah page: http://loveutgiveut.razoo.com/story/Womenoftheworld

 

 

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It’s impossible to try and talk for Iraqi and women refugees, even though I am proud to be an Iraqi woman — but what I do know is that people with similar backgrounds need to gather.  Women need to gather to get a break from their husbands and children, to have an adult conversation about their needs and hopes, to take an English class, to take a breath and enjoy their safety and find some support.  Iraqis are much different from when I last lived there, before wars broke the country financially and hatred and distrust broke the people’s emotions and will to live, they need a place to sit and rebuild this once proud preeminent civilization.

Donations to Women RefugeesFor all refugee communities, women must be the primary concern.  Under appreciated in many of their home countries, their role as a second wage earner builds a financially successful family, the respect they get as a mother ensures they raise well-educated, well-adjusted children.  Women must have their own community center in order to gather separate from men, with their children safe in a daycare, they must be given a chance to talk together and share their stories, to socialize in English about their new lives and their dreams for the future.  Furthermore, the Women Refugee Center would help women with computers to get education, FAFSA, or connect back to their families back home; it would help them develop their skills and even a business in sewing with available sewing machines, and of course it will have private rooms to help serve the private needs of women in a safe environment.

[gn_pullquote align=”right”]Women need to gather to get a break from their husbands and children, to have an adult conversation about their needs and hopes, to take an English class, to take a breath and enjoy their safety and find some support.[/gn_pullquote]

If the Refugee Community Center only offered a place to talk, to take their case for support in an environment that respected their differences, amongst people from their situations, trained in caring and collaboration, it would be a success.  But the Refugee Community Center means so much more.  At the first refugee conference that I attended in January 2011, the keynote speaker and University of Utah economist Pamela Perlich developed the data for the idea that I have always felt — diversity and immigration are more important to our economic future on the wealth end of the spectrum than on the poor end.  What I mean by this, and what is backed up by Professor Perlich’s data, is that the minority-majority culture is more likely to join the creative class, those imaginative enough to develop their own economies beyond the information economy.  The next creative class, the first with the minority-majority demographic, can be found by looking into an elementary classroom in Salt Lake City right now.  The Refugee Community Center will guide these students through adolescence, giving them a place to belong; and more importantly, will teach their parents the English they will need to not be language outcasts from their own children.

[gn_box title=”A Mother’s Dream” color=”#333333″]Every mother dreams that her son or daughter will grow to be happy, successful, and healthy. For our refugee mothers settling in Utah, this is a very tangible dream. Their children work twice as hard early on to succeed, taking nothing for granted.[/gn_box]

As every mother of a teen knows, distance and silence are the weapons their child uses to begin to separate from their family and set out (even before their time) on their own.  This silence is lessened when there is a place to learn English alongside your child, showing them that you care, that in this one location the seeds of fun and the seeds of learning can both be sewn.  That lesson, the lesson that creativity, commitment, play, and work can come together and make an American dream, is the what the Refugee Community Center offers to mothers, daughters, Iraqis, Congolese, and Burmese refugees alike.

I am committed to working hard AND smart to making something greater than ourselves.  Developing a center for community that leads a child or a woman, an innocent ravaged by war, brutality, and poverty back to the path of hope and ultimately happiness is the highest ideal of service and humanity.  And that is why I support the Salt Lake City Refugee Community Center on behalf of the Women of the World Non-Profit Organization and the Iraqi Community in Utah.

Samira Harnish

Founder and Executive Director of Women of the World

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University of Utah Economist Pamela Perlich was the keynote speaker at the Refugee Conference of Utah and she pointed out that the data shows that the nation and Utah are once again developing a minority demographic profile.  This represents a return to historical trends of the large inflow of people from foreign countries that impacted Utah and the nation at the turn of the 20th century.  As she said, the only time when the nation was “freakishly homogenous” and growing was during the post-war baby boom.  This change corresponds well to the increasing globalization of the state’s economy.
Demographics matter!  Our current refugees and certainly our children will be a part of a multiethnic culture and they will compete in a technological and global economy.  Diversity in UtahOur immigration patterns are thankfully matching to the increasing demands for a workforce that is multicultural.  Now is the time for creative solutions on how to apply the special skills of our global community to the service and technology economy so prevalent in Utah.  We must connect our birthplace markets with our Utah markets.
This connection to birthplace markets is harder for our refugees.  Many of the ties are permanently severed for refugees.  Developing these markets, importing-and-exporting from the often poverty or war-stricken communities of the refugee’s birthplace is difficult or impossible.  Developing the strengths and differentiated skills of refugees such as language skills, ethnic clothing or food, or specialized cultural services can be the initial bridge of the chasm between employment and entrepreneurship.
Opportunities exist for our women refugees to both ensure their children are part of this global community as well as themselves.  Women have the greatest ability, with help from technologically savvy mentors to develop advertising on the web, to develop markets for cultural clothing, cultural parenting and daycare services like the have been popularized in the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, or catering or supplies of desserts and food.
Women of the World would like to thank Dr. Perlich for her insightful speech on how the changing demographics of the nation and the state of Utah are making women refugees a more in-demand segment of the population.  It is now up to us to take the message from the latest census and develop each individual to be a part of the new global community.  We need your fresh ideas and assistance in setting up programs that use our differentiated skills as foreign-born women to generate value in the new global-technological economy.  Please contact us to brainstorm these ideas.