As new refugees are admitted to the United States, here are three suggestions for assisting them to fully function as members of the American society:
The European experience teaches that a major issue with the admission of refugees has been their isolation into ghettos and their inability to assimilate to the culture of their new homes, leading to marginalization and often to violence. As one observer has warned, “immigration without assimilation is simply invasion.” To ameliorate this problem, attending regular classes in English and American Government should be mandatory for all refugees, and a condition for receiving any government assistance, whether federal, state, or local.
To further assist in the assimilation of refugees, sponsor families should volunteer to either house or counsel new refugees. Churchs, synagogues, and mosques could greatly assist in aiding these new immigrants, as many have done before. Moreover, given the large number of protesters against President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration, many of those protesters should be willing to volunteer their time and assistance to new refugees. Both the Old and New Testaments teach the importance of assisting the resident alien. For example, in the Book of Deuteronomy, 24:17, it is written that “You shall not deprive a resident alien…of justice….Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.”
3. Job Creation
Both the European and United States experiences with new immigrants demonstrate the need to create jobs for them. Lack of employment is a documented source of marginalization and of potential radicalization. To address this issue, new refugees not otherwise employed should be required to participate in a program like the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps to work on maintaining public parks, roads, and forests, and on planting trees and constructing service buildings and trails. This would both provide jobs to unemployed refugees and assist in conservation efforts. Government at both the federal and state level should also consider creating tax credits or other incentives for private businesses to employ refugees who have attended the mandatory English and American Government classes mentioned above.
While these three proposals are not a panacea, they represent a modest start toward successful integration of new refugees into the fabric of our great Nation.