For many Americans, battles and bombings take place only on their living room screens. For others around the world, these scenes happen on the streets of their hometowns, destroying their homes, schools, and entire lives. At a certain point, their homes become lethal and uninhabitable, and they have to choose between death or moving away to find a new, safer life.
This often requires families to leave not only their cities, but their entire countries altogether. The difficulty of leaving their lives behind is compounded when the inhabitants of their new countries are not welcoming, and even hateful to the asylum seekers. Worldwide, refugees are wrongly demonized as criminals and terrorists. The United States is no exception, regardless of the fact that a refugee has never committed an act of terrorism in the U.S..
Pew Research Center reports that there will be no racial majority in the United States by 2055, rendering all forms of racial prejudice — in addition to being useless, unproductive, and morally wrong — completely moot.
Becoming a Refugee
Since the presidential election of 2016, movements — such as populism and nationalism — that oppose immigration have been growing stronger, according to Rutgers University. Opponents to refugees are quick to express the desire for refugees to move back to their home countries and even participate in discriminatory actions against immigrant families.
Of course, many asylum seekers would love to move back home, but they don’t have anywhere safe to go back to. Furthermore, refugees don’t usually get to choose the country they move to. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants outlines the extensive process, which starts with refugees fleeing their country and seeking legal refugee status.
They can wait for months in refugee camps while paperwork is completed, and there is no guarantee for acceptance. The process can be even more heartbreaking if they have left any family behind who are still in danger. Sometimes, some family members leave before others. Other times, some family members are unable to move to a safer country at all.
The Resettlement Process
Contrary to common assumptions, only 1 percent of refugees move to a third country for resettlement, and that only happens if there are no other options. The priority is to resettle refugees in another city in their home country or in the country of asylum. If it is decided that the best country for them is the U.S., they are interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and complete paperwork.
Those approved are assigned to an American refugee assistance agency to finish the process. Before they can make their way to the U.S., refugees must undergo an assurance process, medical clearance, security clearance, and cultural orientation. Many don’t understand the emotional turmoil and anxiety refugees go through; in addition to their homes becoming uninhabitable, detention centers for migrants often offer poor conditions.
The requisites are high to be approved into the U.S., and denial to a program can jeopardize their entire family. Once they arrive in their new country, they participate in a resettlement program that helps them get started during the first few years of living in their new country. The first steps to prepare refugees for resettlement, according to the Committee, are applying for Social Security numbers, registering in school, additional medical screenings, and English language training.
Contributing Members of the Community
The end goal of the resettlement process is to help refugees become successful, self-sufficient members of their new communities. While programs help refugees with cash assistance, living arrangements, and other basic needs during their first months in the U.S., refugees are expected to be employed within six months of their arrival.
Eventually, refugees will apply for permanent residency and then U.S. citizenship. Successful immigrants will be able to adapt to their new cultures and become contributing U.S. citizens. Prominent examples of former refugees include Madeleine Albright, Freddie Mercury, and Gloria Estefan. The 2017 electoral winners also included Wilmot Collins, who was recently elected as mayor of Helena, Montana and Kathy Tran, elected into the Virginia House of Delegates — both of whom came to the U.S. as refugees.
The term “refugee” is nothing but a temporary status. It describes an unfortunate situation which no one wants to find themselves in. Fully understanding the process is the first step to helping refugees feel welcome and establish lives that allow for them to contribute to the U.S.
Photo is from pxhere Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
Geo Sique is a writer from Boise, ID with a bachelor’s’ degrees in Communication and French and a background in journalism. When she’s not travelling outside Idaho, she loves rock climbing, hot springs, camping, and exploring the world around her.
Website: Georgette Siqueiros