Helping refugees benefits the U.S.

According to Maria Rubi of The United Nations Refugee Agency, between 3,000 and 7,000 migrants are moving north through Mexico toward the U.S. border. These numbers tend to vary depending which way you lean on the political spectrum.

This caravan’s members are fleeing violence and poverty rooted in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Media outlets picked up the coverage earlier this month, and fiery rhetoric spewed forth from the frothy fingers of President Donald Trump in a tweet, as he warned of an "invasion."

Let me be clear. The president has consistently and shamelessly used this type of fearful and racist rhetoric since he first announced his intention to run for the office he now holds. I cannot condone his words, nor do I agree with his tone, but he has a point. 

Our border should not inherently bend to the will of those who gather outside of it. There is a system for people to enter this country legally, and while it is far from perfect, it must be utilized.

According to the American Immigration Council, the U.S. immigration procedure is guided by four main principles: reuniting families, admitting people with skills valuable to the economy, promoting diversity and protecting refugees.

Since reports the caravan is fleeing violence, I will assume these individuals are to be classified as refugees seeking protection.

Refugee admission to the country is set by the president for every fiscal year. Fiscal year 2019 began Oct. 1, and will last until Sept. 30, 2019. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in September the refugee ceiling would be 30,000 for this fiscal year, as reported by the U.S. Department of State.

Quotas are also placed on asylum seekers. Asylum is similar to seeking immigration status due to being a refugee, but it is more often assumed to be temporary. Asylum seekers usually face persecution in their home countries for their political, cultural or religious affiliations.

Add to the 30,000, a 280,000 ceiling on asylum seekers, and there are over 300,000 tickets to escape harsh conditions and stay in the U.S. This is a big enough number, right? So we could take in all these refugees and more, right? Wrong. The global refugee crisis is much bigger.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates there are 25.4 million refugees worldwide, and 3.1 million asylum seekers. Deciding which refugee gets prioritized over others is completely arbitrary, though there are checks to help this process.

Our ceilings on immigrant and asylum seekers are further divided into regions. Central America has been granted 3,000 immigrants for the fiscal year. These quotas exist to help prevent bureaucratic delays and maxing out on one just month after the beginning of the fiscal year is unwise.

There can be no doubt immigration is a complicated and arduous process. The population is now larger so the world now seems smaller, and as a result, we have to be stricter about who can and cannot come into the country.

None of this is to say those in the caravan are not suffering in their home countries or on the road. I am not blind. I have seen the photos. The conditions in which they travel look appalling, and I can scarcely imagine how awful their situation must have been to force them to continue onward.

The tenacity and bravery of these people to walk literally thousands of miles for a better life is nothing short of awe-inspiring, and I desperately hope we find a way to help them, a solution within the system.

However, from a logistical standpoint alone, allowing them to enter the country with no due process, no vetting and no documentation is idealistic at best, and irresponsible at worst.

Foreign aid would be the easiest solution to helping these people live better lives. The U.S. gives the most amount of foreign aid by sheer dollars of any country, but it is severely lacking when comparing the percentage of the budget that goes toward foreign aid.

According to the 2019 Congressional Budget Justification, Congress allotted $37.8 billion to the State Department and other international agencies.

One of those agencies is the United States Agency for International Development. USAID is responsible for most of the foreign aid given to developing countries around the world. USAID was allotted $27.1 billion

To compare, the Department of Defense was given $686 billion. The next closest agency was the Department of Veteran’s Affairs with $83.1 billion.

Logistics aside, this story really comes down to one thing for most people: whether or not they agree with the president. Refugees are nothing new, yet suddenly people care. Those people only care because the president decided not to care, and for them, if the president says, 'Jump,' they will lie down instead.

Where is the concern for refugees in Yemen, displaced by a civil war being fought with American weapons? Who will provide for the Rohingya being massacred in Myanmar? Why are we not opening doors for the roughly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40 million impoverished Americans?

The simple answer is because people do not care about those issues. They are not sexy enough. In a few months, they will not care about the migrant caravan either.

It should not be a choice between opening our borders or sending people away. Instead, we should ask how we can help all people in need.

The system is not the problem. We are.

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