Last week’s Sunday LNP did a nice job laying out the tension surrounding the issue of immigration and refugee resettlement and, more specifically, demonstrating its local impact on both people and organizations like Church World Service.
The very next day, that tension escalated when the Trump administration announced that it would cap refugee admissions at 30,000 in 2019 — the lowest such cap in our country’s history. No doubt this latest announcement will spark fresh debate.
As we weigh the issue, it is critical that we do so with facts. And, for Lancaster County residents, it’s critical that we do so with a full understanding of the local impact such action implies.
For the past three years — beginning before this topic became so politically charged — the Lancaster Chamber and the Lancaster County Community Foundation have been working together to better understand the myriad issues that surround immigration. And, what we’ve found, factually, does challenge some common misconceptions.
First, some definitions.
Refugee: a displaced person who has been forced to flee their country, often without warning, and who cannot return home safely because of war, violence, persecution or natural disaster. The U.S. government selects the refugees who are to be resettled here after an exhaustive and multiyear vetting process. They arrive with legal status.
Immigrant: a person who makes a conscious decision to live permanently in a foreign country with the intention of settling there, often after a lengthy vetting process.
Undocumented immigrant: a person who entered the U.S. without the proper authorization and documents, or who entered legally but since has violated the terms of his or her visa.
Too often the above categories get confused or are used interchangeably when discussing this topic, yet each is unique with unique impacts and challenges. Understanding the differences is critical in any discussion aimed at looking for solutions.
Also critical to assessing solutions is understanding the overall demographic and economic impact of immigrants and refugees. To that point, a recent study by a bipartisan group of mayors and business leaders called New American Economy outlines additional facts that can run counter to the oft-heard rhetoric around this issue: