Myth and Reality of Resettlement

September 17, 2008

Ali Rawaf, a high school senior in Tuscan, Arizona, wrote in the Tuscan Citizen how Iraqi refugees arrive to the United States with myths of what to expect:

After having lost many loved ones and gone through many crises, Iraqi refugees come prepared to have an easy life here.

Like other refugees before them, Iraqi refugees, regardless of the socio-economic class they left behind, have to sign up to qualify for food stamps, health insurance and other basic social services. As Rawaf states, “With limited educational programs and orientations, the refugees end up spending their money not carelessly, but rather extravagantly.”

The number of refugees admitted is actually more than refugee resettlement agencies can handle. If the number of refugees admitted surpasses the capacities of agencies to provide support, should the Bush administration continue to meet its goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees by September? This is a question that I have continually thought about.

Since the U.S. led invasion of Iraqi, the Bush administration came under criticism from advocacy groups and lawmakers for its under performance on admitting refugees from Iraq who had fled violence. Critics and officials have acknowledged, that the administration has a moral obligation to Iraqi refugees and therefore, the government has been steadfast in meeting its goals. While I support the government doing its share in admitting refugees into this country and assisting the 2 million who have been displaced since 2003, I urge the government to provide more support for social services for refugees instead of decreasing the number admitted.

Some may argue that America is already admitting too many refugees and while I understand this view, I point to the fact that the U.S. government’s target number of admissions of Iraqi refugees is far lower than other countries; notably Sweden who has admitted roughly 40,000 refugees since 2003.

While I agree with Rawaf’s statement, “It is better to have 10 Iraqi refugees who are satisfied with their lives than having 100 angry ones with no life at all,” I urge state and federal agencies to evaluate their approaches to resettlement and perhaps achieve an ideal where all 100 refugees are safe, happy, and prosperous, rather than have them be angry and become burdens on the communities they reside.


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