To the editor,
As our community gets ready to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Emergency Refugee Shelter at Fort Ontario, where 982 fleeing the Holocaust were welcomed, we would do well to remember the contributions refugees have made to our country. For example, Safe Haven refugees developed the CAT scan (Alec Margulis) and helped create the Polaris and Minuteman missiles (Rolf Manfred). Other refugees to the United States have given us everything from the theory of relativity (Albert Einstein of Germany) to video games (Ralph Baer of Germany) to Google (Sergei Brin of the Soviet Union) to classic movies (Billy Wilder of Austria) to vibrant music (Gloria Estefan of Cuba) to Sriracha hot sauce (David Tran of Vietnam).
Beyond those stellar examples are countless refugees who have come here and lived normal, stable, productive lives. Far from being a burden to this country, their net contribution has been positive. Just in economic terms, recent (1987-2016) refugees’ median personal income is the same as non-refugees’, and recent refugees have been more likely to be in the work force than Americans as a whole (64 percent versus 60 percent) and more likely to be self-employed (10 percent versus 9 percent). (Source: Center for Migration Studies)
For nearly four decades, under presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, the nation admitted about 75,000 refugees per year, and the economy mostly prospered. Under the Trump administration, however, these successful policies have been abandoned. In 2018, only 23,000 refugees were admitted, and some in the administration aim to cut that number even further—perhaps to zero. Trump immigration advisor Stephen Miller was quoted as saying, “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched American soil.”
Admitting refugees is much more than an act of charity; it benefits us as well. If you agree, please let our elected officials and organizations that support refugees hear your voice.