In American politics it is common to discuss refugees as if they are just other immigrants. This ignores the fact that refugees have gone through some of the worst trauma a human can imagine. Refugees are not coming because they are looking for something better but because they are fleeing something horrible.
The lifetime prevalence for PTSD in the U.S. is only 3.6% for males and 9.1% for females but for refugees the number is 37%. To put these numbers into perspective, the problems with PTSD in soldiers coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq has become a national issue, but only 13.8% experienced PTSD compared to the 37% for refugees. If we go back farther the Vietnam war is know as one of the most brutal modern wars and caused massive mental health problems in the veterans that returned. The percentage of veterans that served in Vietnam that experienced PTSD was only 30%. It is important to also remember when looking at these numbers a large portion of them are children that we can not expect to be able to handle PTSD and the trauma that created it.
Refugees not only have a high rate of PTSD due to the trauma that they have experienced but they do not have access to normal support systems like other people do. In the soldiers’ examples they go home and are able to use their family, community, and other support structures in the home. Refugees have left all of that behind. They are in a foreign land with a different culture and no societal connection to where they are. Below is a diagram that illustrates how refugees have a difficult time integrating with a host nation due to the trauma they have experienced. It also shows how, even if they are able to identify with a minority subset of the host nation’s culture, this too can cause problems.
What does this mean for how the conversations in politics and policies around refugees needs to change? It needs to start with everyone from politicians to everyday citizens understanding that refugees are unique from all other people trying to enter our country and must be treated differently. Politicians must work to put in support structures that are able to give the extra assistance that refugees will need. Every one of us as U.S. citizens must lobby our politicians to make sure they are giving refugees the adequate support that they need, and we must all learn how we can help the refugees that are around us through this trauma that they have experienced. Visit refugee.org or a local refugee support organization to learn how you can get involved.
There is a common idea throughout the United States that when immigrants or refugees come to the United States they are stealing jobs from Americans. This has been a dilemma for Americans for years and a fear that President Trump ran his campaign on.
People are convinced that accepting refugees into the US means Americans will not have jobs and as a result the economy will suffer. In the numbers that have been calculated it seems that while this assumption may be true it has little to no impact on the US or any other country’s overall economy.
In the town of Utica, New York the acceptance of refugees has helped to lift it out of an economic decline. Utica claims to love refugees and how they have contributed to their community.
According to economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a senior UN advisor, refugees are a net positive for the economy of the United States.
there are gains when people come, add to the labor market, add skills and generally, earn less than what they can contribute to the society as a whole. – Sachs
In the simplest terms by having more people in the US there is an increase in purchases. therefore more money is going into the economy. Refugees are engaging in the economy of their host countries in order to improve their circumstances and succeed in the new chapter of their lives.
People should be more interested in the fact that it is our humanitarian right to save these people from the civil wars they are so badly suffering from. In 2015 Martin O’Malley claimed “Accommodating sixty-five thousand refugees in our country . . . of three hundred and twenty million is akin to making room for six and a half more people in a baseball stadium with thirty-two thousand.”
The countries bordering Syria have taken in more refugees than any others. With much smaller economies than the United States it would make sense that these companies economies would be suffering, however this is not the case.
The Turkish economy has expanded 2-3 percent in the past two years and Lebanon and Jordan are seeing improvements in their economies as well. There is little proof to show that accepting more refugees into the United States would negatively affect the economy.
An ethical decision broadly, is any decision that affects other people. These ethical decisions are made on a persons or community’s morals. There are many morals that throughout history have been accepted as almost universal. Not taking life, being generous, being honest, and many more. There are also some that have become more accepted and universal in modern times for example that the natural resources of this planet should be protected and preserved. Though every individual and community will have most of these morals they will also have morals that are more specific to them. This specific set of morals that a community or individual has, is what guides their way of life. There are two things that must be thought of, does america’s decision on how to act on the refugee crisis have ethical implications and if so how does america’s specific set of morals apply.
What is an ethical implication? When you go to the grocery store and are in the dairy aisle trying to decide which whether to chose 2% or 1% does not have ethical implications. Now if you are in the same scenario and are choosing between milk that comes from a source that uses sustainable farming practices or one that does not then that decision does have ethical implications. It is important to realize that when looking at decision that your personal morals do not effect if something has ethical implications. The moral that one should protect the planet and it’s resources may not be in your specific set of morals at all and you may think this is important but the milk decision would still have ethical implications since it is affecting other peoples lives. Both sides of an issue tend to only see the implications that support their stances on an issue. So what are the ethical implications of the possible decisions on the refugee crisis? One ethical implication that the anti-refugee supporters tend to highlight is the fact the refugees could possibly endanger the lives of the community that accepts them. Though this risk is very small it is important to look at all ethical implications. Another implication that anti-refugee supporters highlight is that accepting refugees can hurt the economy and put a burden on social services making it harder for the community to take care of itself. The next implication that I want to highlight is hard for people to understand in america since this kind of situation is foreign to so many of us. That is why to show the ethical implications of leaving the refugees in the current location I am going to show you a video of what the refugees in Syria are fleeing from, though this video is important to see it is also highly graphic and may disturbing for some readers.
So it is pretty clear that there are the large ethical implications for america’s decision on how to respond to the refugee crisis. Then the question is what morals among America’s set of morals apply to this decision and how? Our founding father declared that one of the foundational morals that our country was founded on was that all people have a right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One of the first European groups that came to america was the pilgrims. They were fleeing a government that was restricting these right so they fled to a new place.
There is no way to look at this without seeing that in the founding of america there was this established moral the people have right to flee from harm to a new place an better life. Through the years America has reinforced this moral that it must accept people from other places. This can be seen when america accepted millions of Irish during the Irish potato famine, people believed at the time that it would hurt the economy or have other adverse affects but still the refugees were accepted. That is because it is the only logical conclusion, if it is put forth that the core moral of america is that all men are created equal and that because of that they have a right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness. America was not founded on the belief that all american citizens are equal but that all men are equal. There have been times that america has ignored this core moral in order to help them selves or what they perceive as the greater good. Two of the worst examples were america forgot this core belief and either put economic prosperity or community safety (as they perceived it) before this core belief was the trails of tears and other interactions indigenous peoples and slavery. History has not looked kindly on these times were america has forgotten this founding moral that it was founded on. By this core moral, america has a moral obligation to help these refugees and to do so even at if it costs america. If this is still the core of american morality then this is the only option.