- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
President Trump signed a new executive order Monday, barring travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations from entering the US.
The new version, which was postponed several times and goes into effect March 16, replaces a previous ban, which courts blocked. It lasts for 90 days and bars entry to those from Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, unless they have a visa. Iraq is no longer on the list.
The order also includes some changes for refugees.
Whereas the original order indefinitely suspended Syrian refugees from entering the US, the new one reportedly bars them for the same 120-day period, as all other refugees.
Refugees have long been viewed warily by some Americans who fear they could pose a national-security threat, despite the fact that they undergo a rigorous, years-long screening and resettlement process, and there’s no data supporting the concerns.
Here are some things you may not know about the refugees whom the US accepts:
Refugees must repay the government for the cost to come to the US.
- Reuters/Rebecca Cook
When the government pays for flights bringing refugees to the US, it’s actually a loan that the refugees must repay.
The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration supplies the funds to the International Organization for Migration, and refugees have to start paying their interest-free loan back as soon as they start working. Usually, refugees begin paying that back within the first six months of arriving in the US.
That repaid money is used to assist future refugees traveling to the US.
Refugees can cost a lot for the government to resettle, but refugees positively affect economies.
There’s no doubt that the US pays a large upfront cost when it accepts refugees. Data from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that in the 2015 fiscal year, the US had a budget of $612 million to resettle about 70,000 refugees (this excludes $948 million that was set aside for unaccompanied minors who crossed the US-Mexico border).
Some of that funding goes toward people who aren’t refugees, such as trafficking victims, according to The Washington Post, but the money is mainly allotted to provide refugees social services such as language and vocational training, cash allowances, as well as medical and preventive healthcare.
At the same time, multiple studies of countries across the world have found that accepting refugees can positively affect economies, or at least balance the cost of accepting them.
For instance, a 2013 study found that the 4,518 refugees who were resettled in Cleveland between 2000 and 2012, started 38 businesses. This yielded a total impact of 175 jobs and $12 million in spending in Cleveland in 2012.
“There’s not any credible research that I know of that in the medium and long term that refugees are anything but a hugely profitable investment,” Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development told The Post.
Refugees have to prove they’re refugees.
According to international law, the official definition of a refugee is someone with a “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.”
The term was laid out by the 1951 Refugee Convention. Refugees must meet some of the criteria above. It’s not enough just to be poor, for instance.
Many refugees don’t want to be resettled anywhere, let alone in the US.
- REUTERS/Siegfried Modola
“Resettlement” refers to the process wherein refugees are relocated from a country where they’re provided temporary asylum to a third country. But it’s just one of three solutions. They could also permanently stay in the asylum country or return to their home country if conditions there improve.
In fact, resettlement is usually the international community’s last resort, and the least desirable outcome for some refugees. Many want their home countries to achieve peace and stability so that they can return. Of the world’s 20 million refugees, 99% will never be resettled, according to the International Rescue Committee.
For those refugees who don’t have a viable path to return home, most tend not to want to come to the US. They prefer places such as Sweden or other European countries known for their history of accepting refugees and generosity with social payments, according to Tammy Lin, a San Diego-based immigration lawyer.
It takes a long time to be resettled.
- Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi
Refugees hang in “limbo” for an average of 10.3 years and a median of four years before a permanent home can be found, according to the World Bank Group. For those refugees in protracted situations – meaning they have been in exile in an asylum country for five or more years – their average duration of exile is 21.2 years.
Once resettlement begins for those refugees assigned to relocate to the US, the minimum time the government spends processing them is 18 months, the IRC’s Robin Dunn Marcos told Business Insider. But immigration lawyers say the process can often stretch from four to eight years.
Most refugees awaiting resettlement live in cities rather than camps.
- Reuters/Murad Sezer
This means many refugees can work and earn money, as well as take advantage of their freedom of movement, although the UNHCR points out this can also leave refugees vulnerable to exploitation and other dangers.
Yet urban refugees’ self-sufficiency means the international community doesn’t have to provide full financial support and that refugees can help boost economic development.
The US resettles the greatest number of refugees, although it trails many other countries on per-capita admissions.
The US has been resettling refugees since World War II, and has since become the top resettlement country in the world, according to the UNHCR. More than 3 million refugees have been resettled in the US since 1975, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
But on a per-capita basis, the US lags far behind many European and Middle Eastern countries. Germany, for instance, is expected to annually take in 0.6% of its population for several years. In 2015, the US took in 0.02% of its population.
Further, the US’s reputation for welcoming refugees has been less than stellar for years. The US once turned away a ship carrying 900 Jews from Germany and rejected a bill to take in 20,000 Jewish children. President Franklin Roosevelt suggested Nazis could infiltrate the US by entering as refugees.