February 17, 2016

Taking in Refugees Is Good for America

Veronique de Rugy

Senior Research Fellow
Summary

Low-skilled refugees, like other immigrants, tend to boost the employment opportunities of native workers, either by providing cheap child care services that allow women to increase their labor force participation or by pushing native workers to pursue more complex occupations and higher wages.

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We all intuitively understand that if your friend loses his house in a hurricane, the right thing to do is to invite him to stay with you. But what if 10 of your friends lose their houses? You might call on your other friends to help out with the cost of hotel rooms. And if you don't actually know the unfortunate souls who lost it all? You might still lend a hand through the many private charities that assist those in distress.

The same philosophy should apply today, as the American people decide whether to accept a portion of the estimated 4.2 million Syrian refugees currently trying to escape their civil war-torn nation. And yet popular resistance to the idea is strong.

In 2015, the United States admitted 70,000 refugees combined from countries such as Iraq, Iran, China, and Indonesia. For 2016, President Barack Obama proposed increasing the ceiling to 85,000—higher than at any time since he took office, but much lower than the 207,116 refugees—mostly from Asia—that we welcomed into the country in 1980.

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