The Battles Refugees Face When Arriving to the US
By: Yaseen Rashed/Arab America Contributing Writer
The United States seems to have a complicated legacy concerning refugees. The same country that was initially comprised of political and economic refugees, has cut down almost 2/3 of its acceptance of refugees. In 2017, the cap for refugees entering the country was at 53,700, whereas Trump set the cap for 2020 at a mere 18,000.
There’s also been a notable decline in the acceptance of Muslim refugees since the 2016 elections. One of the Trump administration’s most notable policies is the travel ban of 7 countries, 5 of which held a majority Muslim population. The ban list included countries such as Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Syria. This policy has greatly changed the global atmosphere concerning refugees as it was clear that America wasn’t fond of these refugees, leaving Europe and Canada to pick up America’s slack.
In the new political age of Trump, immigrants have become the forefront of policy debate and division among the American public. However, the way the political climate has changed in recent years has heavily affected refugees in dire need of a new place to call home. However hard the application process may be, when refugees are admitted to America, there are very few resources to support them, especially in their first couple of months.
Upon arrival, refugees must be processed through the Social Security Administration. They are given a temporary social security number and a work visa. This is essential to helping them get jobs and being able to provide for their families. However, being able to secure a job alone proves to be a lot more difficult when someone struggles to speak English and understand the culture. This leaves many of these immigrants prone to taking backdoor jobs where they are easily exploited and overworked with very little pay. These jobs are one of the many examples of how refugees are continuously exploited in a country that has the responsibility of keeping them safe.
The only governmental program in place to fiscally assist new-coming refugees is the TANF program or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This program provides cash assistance to refugees and serves as a parallel program to SNAP. With a budget of around 17 billion dollars, the TANF program was able to assist many refugees in their relocation process, providing relief and stability in their lives. The program is also comprehensive not only to refugees but to all American families. However beneficial this program is, it still lacks in providing specific aid concerning the refugee population in this country.
Other programs, like food stamps, are also able to help secure nutrition for these families however, they don’t transcend in other aspects of their transition like healthcare or sustainable housing. This leaves countless refugees dependent on private parties to ensure a good quality of life. Churches and other humanitarian organizations have stepped up and taken responsibility for many of these families, providing them with the necessities the government doesn’t cover.
However, it’s not enough to just have private parties supporting the refugee population. The U.S. government should provide more to these vulnerable populations. Many of these people come traumatized from what they’ve experienced in their lives, however, there aren’t any programs that shed light on mental health, not even for children. This is extremely significant as many of their PTSD and mental health issues can be resolved with therapy; however, there’s a lack of programs that help with matters like mental health.
Because of America’s strong hostility towards immigrants, many have instead decided to call Canada their new home. Canada has become a growing adopter of refugees across the international stage. In contrast with the U.S. system, Canada offers comprehensive support to refugee newcomers. Not only does Canada offer them a clear path to citizenship, but they also offer other necessities like free healthcare and cheap sustainable housing. There is also something to be said about the social climate in Canada, in comparison with the United States. Many Canadians are excited to host these refugees in their country while America is much more hostile in their approach.
Nonetheless, the United States has the responsibility of contributing more to helping these refugee communities. As a dominant player on the global stage, the US should host more than a mere 18,000 refugees and should expand its relief programs significantly in helping these families relocate. To the people who’ve experienced the worst the world has to give, we as Americans, shouldn’t make it any harder on them. They too deserve a chance in having a safe peaceful life like us.
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