The definition of a refugee was developed by the United Nations in 1951 following World War II. It is as follows: “a person, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” In brief, it is a person who fears for their personal safety based on the condition of their home country. Often the misconception has been that a refugee is merely an immigrant looking for opportunity in a “free” country. A refugee is, in fact, seeking to stay alive.
According to current statistics from the State Department, the U.S. government accepts thousands of refugees each year and provides cash, medical and housing rental assistance to them through nonprofit resettlement agencies.
The number of refugees accepted (which is set annually by the president) reached a peak of 142,000 during the Balkan wars in 1993. It was 80,000 between 2008 and 2011, dropped to 76,000 in 2012 and has been at 70,000 since 2013.
During the current fiscal year, the U.S. plans to accept 110,000 refugees, with only a small portion of that number coming from Syria, hardly scratching the surface of the more than four million Syrians displaced by war since 2011. There are currently 20 million people classified as refugees out of 65 million people who have been displaced by violence in their home country. It is often believed that those who enter the United States under these conditions present a threat to our nation’s security. It might then surprising to some to know that since 2001, 800 thousand refugees have been resettled in the U.S. and NONE of this number has been convicted of an act of terrorism.
by Xavier Huerta
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