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January 26, 2017

Resettling Refugees is the Right Choice, Morally and Strategically

Accepting refugees—some of the most at-risk people on earth—makes America stronger, despite claims from President Trump and others that refugees pose a danger to the country. Numerous national security leaders and former officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations agree that accepting refugees helps the country and improves its security.

Accepting refugees helps U.S. allies and reduces the likelihood of conflict, making the country safer. In a letter to Congress, a group of respected former U.S. government officials wrote that accepting refugees “support[s] the stability of our allies and partners that are struggling to host large numbers of refugees,” and that restricting acceptance of refugees would “undermine our core objective of combating terrorism.” Signatories include former Secretaries of Defense, State and Homeland Security, former CIA Directors, and former National Security Advisors, as well as retired military leaders.

Instability can foment terrorism and conflict. Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, writes, “Increased assistance would protect the stability of a region home to U.S. allies… A major resettlement and aid initiative can relieve the strain.”

But it’s not just bolstering U.S. allies that will improve the country’s security. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Staviridis point out that accepting refugees combats enemy narratives. “Hostility to refugees helps ISIS,” they wrote in the Miami Herald, “Conversely, welcoming refugees regardless of their religion, nationality, or race exposes the falseness of terrorist propaganda and counters the warped vision of extremists.”

Refugees and the children of refugees also fight for the United States as members of the U.S. armed forces. Alex Vasquez, the child of Nicaraguan refugees, served in the U.S. Air Force. He says that “Because my parents were refugees, and because of their refugee status, they’ve always instilled in us a sense of purpose and duty to this country.”

The Department of Defense recently highlighted the case of Marine Corps Corporal Ali J. Mohammed, an Iraqi refugee now fighting ISIS in his homeland. In his youth, Mohammed’s family supported U.S. forces in Iraq, and the country became too dangerous for them to stay. After moving to America, Mohammed joined the Marine Corps and his language skills and knowledge of the country are a huge asset.

Emir Hadzic, a Bosnian Muslim refugee who spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, is another example:

Accepting refugees can also help the country’s economy. Studies have shown that in advanced economies, the entry of refugees into the work force lifts wages. Also, for countries that settle refugees, the short-term investment of settling refugees is eclipsed by economic growth and in some cases revitalized cities.

The Trump Administration’s assertion that refugees pose a danger to the United States ignores the experts and the facts. He uses vastly overblown and alarmist statistics to make its case, while the danger posed by refugees to Americans is minuscule, according to a CATO Institute analysis.  

Refugee resettlement improves U.S. national security and global stability, and it shows the country’s strength. Helping those in peril is not only the moral choice, but the strategic one as well.