Learn the facts about refugees
Discover the answers to four common myths about refugees.
Brad Kramer, content writer
Myth: Refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers, and immigrants are the same
Although you may hear these terms used interchangeably, each of these terms describe separate and distinct groups of people who must apply for legal residence in the U.S. uniquely. Refugees have fled from dangerous situations and are seeking protection outside the border of their home country. A person applies for and is granted refugee status by the United Nations, usually while residing in a refugee camp or in an urban setting. Refugees who are resettled in the U.S. enter the country as a legal entrants who undergo an extensive vetting process. Refugees complete required physicals and background vetting prior to entry. This legal immigration process does not apply to all migrants, immigrants, or even asylum-seekers. Those visiting or working in the U.S. when a crisis occurs in their country of origin, or those who flee to the U.S. for protection as their first country of asylum, may meet the United Nations definition of a refugee but will need to apply for asylum or another form of immigration relief and be granted that relief before being allowed to remain in the U.S. as a permanent legal resident.
Myth: Refugees are an economic burden
Refugees boost economies. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, while resettling refugees comes with an initial cost, accepting refugees is an investment with a net gain for America’s financial future. The average refugee resettled in the U.S. contributes to the economy the same way Americans do—by paying taxes and starting businesses, paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits. According to a report from New American Economy, refugees paid nearly $21 billion in taxes in 2015. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that between 2005 and 2014, refugees paid $63 billion more in taxes to all levels of government than they received in benefits.
Myth: Refugees bring diseases that pose a health risk to Americans
While some refugees have health concerns due to the lack of medical care in their country of origin or due to hardships they faced while fleeing persecution, most of these are addressed before refugees are admitted to the U.S. All refugees are required by law to undergo a medical examination prior to being resettled in the United States. The medical screening ensures that individuals do not have inadmissible health conditions, such as communicable diseases.
Myth: Refugees are a threat to the safety and security of the United States
Coming to the U.S. as a refugee is the most difficult way to legally enter the country. Refugees undergo a more thorough vetting process than any other traveler to the United States. According to UNHCR and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the vetting process includes screening by eight federal agencies and six different security databases, five separate background checks, four biometric security checks, three in-person interviews, two inter-agency security checks, as well as medical screenings. A person with a history of violence or intent to do harm to the country is unlikely to try to come to the U.S. as a refugee, as they would be compromised in the vetting process.