The Daily Demarche
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Refugees Part II
Now for the slightly delayed Part II of the Refugees in America mini-series. As usual, several of the astute comments that were left for that piece feed nicely into this follow up.

Toni touched briefly on immigration issues, and the problems many of these groups have assimilating into America as a rule of law nation. This is, unfortunately, a very broad subject off the topic of this post, but one which bears examining.

LB of Adventures in Bureaucracy has a short post of his own on this matter, in addition to the excellent comment he left. Here is the bulk of that comment:

The success of various refugee communities varies, with some having a difficult time adjusting to life in the United States, while others thrive here. The problem with expecting refugees to go home as friends of the United States is that many never return to their countries of origin. Look at places like Sudan, Somalia, Haiti or Kosovo - we've taken refugees from all these places, but they're still basket cases, and the initial reason for the refugee status is probably still there. Vietnam sent its wave of refugees thirty years ago, and not many are willing to go back to live under the regime. The Iranian revolution was in 1979. Are we supposed to send that wave of refugees back now? The risk of persecution for them is still real.

Contrast this to places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Ethiopia. There's hope for brighter futures there, and many refugees and other immigrants have gone back to help make things better, opening businesses and trying to rebuild their political systems. Their time - and their relative success - in the United States allows them to make contributions back home, and it also shows them the benefits of things like rule of law from first-hand experience. Isn't this ultimately what we as a country want? Let the Public Diplomacy folks advocate the United States. Let the returned refugees push for stability, openness and democracy back home because they've enjoyed the benefits here in America.

Commenter Walter E. Wallis left this comment before LB left his, but it is an excellent rebuttal to LB:

Refugees should be repatriated as soon as conditions permit.

I think this is the key to LB's comments. Obviously we cannot "send back" refugees to Iran or Viet Nam, and Sudan and Somalia may not yet be ready to be rebuilt. As for places like Haiti and Kosovo- why can't some of these refugees work in the region? There are international organizations hard at work in these regions that could benefit greatly from the cultural and linguistic knowledge refugees possess. We should be helping refugees to help themselves in preparation for the day they can return to help rebuild their shattered nations. LB's comments on Afghanistan and Iraq make my point for me to a certain extent- but I propose specific training in lieu of direct monetary aid to refugees as part of this larger idea that their stay in America is not permanent. Skills they can use to survive in America should translate to skills that will aid in reparing these often war torn countries.

I ended my first post on this subject with the following questions:

Why are we not doing our best by these unfortunates and prepping them to return home someday, educated in the ways of America, democracy and freedom? Who could better serve as a representative to the world about the promise of America? Where are the Muslim refugees of Bosnia in our fight against Islamo-fascism, why are they not refuting the "great Satan" mythos? This is the planned theme for tomorrow- does our refugee program work not just for individual families, but for America (and should it) and to what end?

I stand by these questions. Where LB says "Let the Public Diplomacy folks advocate the United States. Let the returned refugees push for stability, openness and democracy back home" I have to ask: what is the difference? When we act as advocates for America we are in a very large part promoting the idea of America: a land of freedom, liberty, democracy, law and stablility. We should be promoting that idea to those who seek asylum here- they will pick up on consumerism and pop-culture quickly enough on their own.

We have in America vast pools of recent of refugees. Why are we not tapping into these pools for the best and brightest, those who learned a skill in America that can be of use in their homeland and asking them to help? We can not force them, at this point in time we may not even be able to expect many to return as LB points out. It is not, and perhaps should not be a condition of asylum that asylees train to return home to work for their homeland. Yet I think many of these folks would rather return home to help save the country of their birth. Perhaps in this I am naive- could there really be something I am not overly cynical about?

I continue to believe that our assistance to refugees is a good thing, that we are indeed helping many individuals and families. At the same time, I don't believe this is the answer to any problem. If we can equip refugees with the skills they need to return home and help solve the problems that plague their countries I believe we will be doing them, America and the world a much larger favor. The time has come for those we have tried to make strong to take the lessons they have learned in America and apply them to whence they came.
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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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