Refugees in the United States

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Introduction and Summary

With an increase in countries experiencing wars and political unrest, the numbers of individuals forced to leave their homes has been steadily increasing. As a result, there is a worldwide concern of how to respond to the increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers. Recently, the numbers of refugees admitted to the United States has drastically decreased, as well as their systems of support. In order to help the refugees currently in the United States and those awaiting approval, it is suggested that the United States increase the number of refugees per year as well as improve the support systems that are currently in place.

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Problem Statement

From 2007 to 2017 the number of individuals who have been forcibly displaced increased dramatically, from 42.7 million to 68.5 million, and seems to be continually increasing ( An Overview of U.S. Refugee Law and Policy, 2018). Of those 68.5 million displaced persons, an estimated 19.6 million of them are refugees ( An Overview of U.S. Refugee Law and Policy, 2018). This has created quite a stir for countries around the world as they try to determine what to do with these individuals that are seeking refuge within their borders and also protect their citizens. In the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocols, 148 nations came together and formalized an international commitment to assist refugees in response to World War II (Esses, Hamilton, & Gaucher, 2017). Unfortunately attitudes towards refugees today can be, some say, seen as similar to those attitudes towards those seeking refuge during World War II(Morrison, 2018).

In 2017, the Presidential cap on refugees that was set by President Obama was decreased from 110,000 to 50,000 by President Trump (An Overview of U.S. Refugee Law and Policy, 2018). In 2018, the cap was further decreased to 45,000 (Kerwin, 2018). There was also a 120 day suspension of the refugee program, and once it resumed President Trump ordered a ban on admitting refugees from certain countries that were deemed a threat to national security (Kerwin, 2018)( An Overview of U.S. Refugee Law and Policy, 2018). These actions seemed to stem from some of the fears that current residents of the United States have about the potential threats of terrorism, fears of the Muslim religion, and potential job loss (Taylor, 2018) (Esses, Hamilton, & Gaucher, 2017).

While some of those fears are valid and not completely unwarranted, the actions of the current administration seem to be gearing towards shutting down the refugee program in the United States rather than looking for ways to both strengthen the nation and provide relief for these families. With proper support, refugees have shown to have higher rates of employment than the total population and contribute positively to their communities in a variety of ways (Kerwin, 2018). The struggle is that if they aren’t provided adequate support when they initially enter the country, the possibility for refugees to thrive dramatically decreases, and thus reinforces the negative stigma that they are lazy and don’t want to work (Baran, Valcea, Porter, & Gallagher, 2018). In order to aid in the current world refugee crisis, it makes sense to find ways to improve the overall view that the United States has of refugees by increasing support for them once they enter the country to help communities benefit from their presence. It also would be important to increase the numbers of refugees admitted into the country in order to provide opportunities for those support agencies to be able to have a consistent flow of clientele in order to stay in business.

Possible Options

1. Increase number of refugees admitted into the U.S.

  1. Slowly increase the cap set by President Trump to be comparable to that set by President Obama. This would allow the agencies that previously supported a higher number of refugees adequate time to prepare for the influx and make sure they have adequate support once they arrive in the country.
  2. Quickly increase the above mentioned cap, and possibly exceeding those numbers set to make a larger impact on the worldwide struggle to accommodate for the increasing numbers of refugees.

2. Continue to decrease number of refugees admitted into the U.S.

As numbers of actual refugees continue to decrease, continue to reduce the cap each year until the United States no longer admits refugees in order to protect its own citizens and boarders.

3. Increase the quality of support provided to refugees

As refugees come into the country, provide a variety of support systems to aid in their assimilation to their new country. Those support systems would consist of mental health, educational, vocational, community, and health organizations whose goals would be to set them up for self-sufficiency and success. Individuals working for these organizations would take into account individual needs and would practice in a culturally sensitive manner. While it is important for refugees to maintain their sense of culture, it will be important to help them identify the areas that they will need to adapt in order to thrive in the United States (Puma, Lichtenstein, & Stein, 2018) (Esses, Hamilton, & Gaucher, 2017).

4. Increase the security measures in place to admit refugees

In order to quell the worries of those that are against admitting refugees into the United States, continue to increase the security requirements for those entering the country. In addition to increasing those requirements, be more transparent to the public about what those requirements are and change some of the vocabulary that is currently used in order to paint a more accurate picture of those that are entering the country.

5. Loosen the requirements for refugees to enter the U.S.

Since evil people will always find a way around the system, loosen the requirements so that the United States can help more of those who truly need help rather than punish them for the crimes of the few. Allow those with families already in the United States to be able to reunite with them sooner in order to minimize the possible trauma that children could experience by being separated from their attachment figures.

6. Do Nothing

Keep the current policies on refugees as they are and don’t make any changes or adaptations.

Assessment of Options

1. Increasing the numbers of refugees admitted

a. Slowly increasing the numbers of refugees entering the United States would give agencies an adequate amount of time to prepare their workforce for the influx of work that would result. It would also give communities time to prepare for their arrival, hopefully giving them time to learn more facts about the populations they would be receiving. This option would seem to have support by those who have a more liberal ideology and those who value humanitarian work. While this could be beneficial to the population, it could also give them time to build up further resentment and negative feelings towards the refugees and provide a hostile environment for them to arrive in. In 2016, a poll conducted on the attitude of U.S. citizens towards refugees found that 54% felt the need to either somewhat or completely close the boarders to refugees (Esses, Hamilton, & Gaucher, 2017). Since there is a large amount of refugees that are currently from predominately Muslim countries, there seems to be an increasing amount of hostility towards those who are Muslim as they are seen by some as potential terrorists. The increasing amount of acts of violence towards people of color also increases the possibility of citizens reacting in a negative light to bringing more refugees into the country.

b. Quickly increasing the numbers of refugees would be met with agencies that are not prepared for the workload that would be required of them. Both this and the above mentioned option would also require an increase in the funding towards the required supportive organizations, which could result in backlash from those who feel that our budget would be best spent on solving issues that our own citizens are currently facing. Due to the current political climate of the United States, this option would seem to further divide the country and potentially incite more acts of violence and racism.

2. Continue to decrease number of refugees admitted into the U.S.

This response would receive some support towards those who are more conservative and feel strongly about protecting the country from possible external threats. Those who believe that refugees are a burden on the economy would also support this option as less money from the budget will go to their support. This could be seen as strengthening the boarders and prioritizing the safety of its citizens. However, it would also be seen as a harsh response towards those that truly need help. Refugees that are currently in the country may feel increasingly isolated from their host country as opportunities to reunite with members of their family decrease. It also has the potential to further reinforce a dominant discourse that Americans are racist and that all Muslims are bad.

3. Increase the quality of support provided to refugees

Providing better support towards to aid in the assimilation of refugees is a great idea in theory and would be extremely beneficial if implemented, but it would be difficult to carry out. Many of the organizations that are working with refugees are already short staffed and over worked, and funding is limited. Due to the current nature of the economy and the political climate, it would be difficult to gain support for further funding as there are currently other areas that are deemed as a greater concern. Those who are more conservative would be against increasing government funding towards non-citizens and could be seen as getting something they haven’t earned. However, if increasing support was seen as a way to help refugees become self-sufficient and not have to rely on the government, it may be more fully supported.

4. Increase the security measures in place to admit refugees

Continuing to increase security measures in admitting refugees would be mostly supported by those on the right and on the left. The concern of making it more difficult for the good people who are trying to get through would be a possible drawback. Many refugees already wait for an extended period of time to be approved entry, and this could extend that even further.

5. Loosen the requirements for refugees to enter the U.S.

While this would make it easier for families to be reunited, it would not receive much support by those who are worried about national security and patrolling the boarders. It would also be seen as allowing more of those who could hurt the country to be able to enter.

6. Do Nothing

If nothing is done and things are left the way they are, the refugees who are currently in the country would continue to feel further isolated from their families who are trying to gain entry and possibly lose hope. This will affect their job performance and desire to assimilate into their new communities (Baran, Valcea, Porter, & Gallagher, 2018). There would be a possibility that the numbers of refugees admitted would continue to decrease as agencies are overworked and the employees may experience burnout and seek alternative employment. As stated in some of the options above, this would also receive support by those who feel that current issues that are facing the country internally should take priority over providing relief to external entities. For those who feel that as a nation it is our duty to have a positive impact on the world around us and support those who are suffering, this would not be an adequate solution.


Due to the current political climate, any action taken towards refugees will cause a stir. However, due to the current need for relief for so many families, it is recommended that a combination of 1a, 3, and 4 is acted upon. As stated above, slowly increasing the intake of refugees will allow for agencies to adequately prepare for the work ahead of them. It will also give non-profit organizations time to apply for grants and private funding in order to provide better support. If security measures are increased, it would ease the minds of those who are worried about national security while also answering the desire to help. If the quality of support is also increased, refugees won’t need to be supported for as long and will be able to better assimilate into their communities. As they better assimilate, the communities that they are a part of will be able to know for themselves who these families are and can potentially lessen the negative stigmas that currently surround them.

Works Cited

An Overview of U.S. Refugee Law and Policy. (2018, September 17). Retrieved from

Baran, B. E., Valcea, S., Porter, T. H., & Gallagher, V. C. (2018). Survival, expectations, and employment: An inquiry of refugees and immigrants to the United States. Journal of Vocational Behavior,105, 102-115. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2017.10.011

Esses, V. M., Hamilton, L. K., & Gaucher, D. (2017). The Global Refugee Crisis: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications for Improving Public Attitudes and Facilitating Refugee Resettlement. Social Issues and Policy Review,11(1), 78-123. doi:10.1111/sipr.12028

Hansen, R. (2018). The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework: A Commentary. Journal of Refugee Studies,31(2), 131-151. doi:10.1093/jrs/fey020

Kerwin, D. (2018, June 19). How America’s refugee policy is damaging to the world and to itself. Retrieved from

Lind, D. (2017, December 04). The Trump administration doesn’t believe in the global refugee crisis. Retrieved from

Morrison, A. (2018). The Greatest Moral Question: The United States & Jewish Refugees During the Holocaust. Strategic Visions, 17(2). doi:

Puma, J. E., Lichtenstein, G., & Stein, P. (2018). The RISE Survey: Developing and Implementing a Valid and Reliable Quantitative Measure of Refugee Integration in the United States. Journal of Refugee Studies. doi:10.1093/jrs/fex047

Taylor, E. (2018). The Effects of Political Rhetoric on Refugee Policy and Communities in the United States and Germany. El R?­o: A Student Research Journal, 1(1). Retrieved from

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Refugees in the United States. (2019, Jul 08). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from

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