Is it reasonable to resettle refugees in America?

The Syrian refugee crisis coinciding with America’s Presidential Campaigns has brought the emotional debate over refugees into the political arenas of nearly every state and over the internet. Candidates and conservative journalists have placed fear of terrorism and radicalization in front of voters while liberals in this country and abroad use compassion and sympathy in an attempt to play the heartstrings of ordinarily big-hearted Americans. While Women of the World obviously believes in our capacity to serve refugees and ensure their benefit to society and has few barriers to the amazing stories of survival of our new refugee neighbors, we want to win both hearts and minds, to show that it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America.One of the first forays into understanding if it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America was Intelligence Squared’s debate on the subject of Should the US let in 100,000 Syrian Refugees? Intelligence Squared Debates are Oxford-style debates where two debaters argue for the motion and two debaters argue against the motion. In this case, Robert Ford (Sr. Fellow, Middle East Inst. & Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Syria) and David Miliband (President & CEO, International Rescue Committee & Fmr. U.K. Foreign Secretary) argued for the motion while David Frum (Senior Editor, The Atlantic) and Jessica Vaughan (Dir. of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies) argued against.While there were still a great number of appeals to emotion in this debate, the team for the motion, especially David Miliband took on the difficult side of his argument, that it was reasonable to resettle refugees in America. He argued that "it’s right thing to do, that it's a practical thing to do, and that it's a smart thing to do."

The Economic Benefits of Refugee Resettlement

It is the right thing to do, not only morally, but because of the benefit that refugees have brought to our country. Rationally it is unfair to cherry pick the few violent or the entrepreneurial geniuses in either the first or second generation but instead understand the trends of refugee resettlement in the bulk of the distribution. That analysis in a 2012 Cleveland, Ohio study of resettled refugees showed a 10-fold economic benefit above the cost of refugee services and a similar study in 2014 in Denmark also yielded positive economic benefit. Only Jordan netted an economic detriment from the local refugee camp structure where instead of putting individuals to work in local communities (by the numbers an impossible task), infrastructure like water was overwhelmed by large numerical increases. Women of the World is working on an innovative way to track these hard numbers for resettled refugees in Utah, a state where low unemployment makes job advancement even more difficult for workers with fewer native skills.

Efficient and Effective Refugee Service

Women of the World and other service providers are accountable to the second part of Mr. Miliband’s argument, that it is practical to take in refugees. Communities across America have organizations across the public, private, non-profit, and religious spectrum that give refuge to the disenfranchised and poor. If there is a homelessness issue or high unemployment, a community will not be burdened beyond its means. In Utah, organizations like Mr. Miliband’s IRC and the Catholic Community Service resettle refugees, organizations like Women of the World and numerous LDS institutions help to take care of basic needs, employment, and service in transition from resettlement to active citizenship. Organizations like the Utah Health and Human Rights further serve needs like PTSD therapy and the Maliheh Clinic serves basic physiological health issues.Like all activities in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, refugee service must perform its business processes both efficiently and effectively, that is it must meet budgets and schedules (efficient) and achieve outcomes (effective). Successful non-profits produce results with the lowest possible overhead and have diverse funding sources to ensure continued success in challenging political or economic times. As the below quoted stat from Mr. Miliband shows, refugee service is certainly efficient...

The direct federal cost of services and benefits associated with resettling 100,000 refugees in this country — let me tell you what it is. It's 1.4 cents per American per day. That's the direct federal cost of services and benefits. It's true that that doesn't include health care costs or school costs. But nor does it include the taxes that Syrians pay when they work.

Hearts and Minds

Finally, Mr. Miliband argues that it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America because it the smart thing to do, a strategic globalization ploy to eliminate ISIS marketing that theirs is a campaign for Muslims against the anti-Muslim west. Accepting refugees begins to win the hearts and minds counterinsurgency campaign. This is a long-term play that, like building schools for girls in the Muslim world, will not make large gains in the near term, but is likely the only way to secure the peace.While I feel this was a well-argued and ultimately successful debate on the side of both reason and emotion for the pro refugee resettlement team, it was not the best performance by the against side. The appeal to fear was far too great and their strongest argument, that refugee assistance is hyper-local and what works for Salt Lake City or Cleveland may not work for Atlanta or Phoenix was debated but the figures that were given, Foodstamp assistance, was well-parried in the rebuttal round that showed that self-reliance was improving through time, a similar result to what Women of the World has seen.reasonable to resettle refugees in AmericaArguing both the hearts and minds of this argument does not yield a clear victory. As the online poll and comments show a decided objection to resettling refugees in America. The opponents largely will forego the economic and counterinsurgency positive outcome effectiveness delivered efficiently in time and cost for a greater sense of security.The world is being terrorized and fear and a desire for security are legitimate emotions or reactions. Our allies and the United States are taking military and diplomatic actions to address threats. The conversation that America needs to be having is where do we legitimately draw the line where our collective fear is going to cause us to act or not act, across all of the military, diplomatic, and humanitarian issues. Are the potential benefits and ethical upsides of humanitarian action reasonable to expect and worth it against the threat of the potential security losses? I am interested in having this conversation and believe that Americans are good neighbors, courageous, and in possession of the greatest ideal a country has ever been built upon. This is our American exceptionalism and the wellspring that will make America continue to be great.

She is No Longer Desperate -- She is Thriving

By Rebecca Brown Wright “I need someone to adopt my daughter so I can kill myself.”Samira Harnish, founder of Women of the World, was shocked as she listened to this woman’s desperation.“Why are you talking like this?” she asked the woman.The woman told of how she had watched her husband and son die right in front of her in a terrorist car explosion in her former country. She was forced to go on the run with her daughter to save their lives, eventually ending up in a refugee camp, where she and her daughter remained for five years.“I didn’t even want to come to America,” she confessed to Samira.“Well, why did you come then?” Samira asked.“I want my daughter to have a better life,” the woman responded.“Then do that,” Samira told her. “Give her a better life. If you die, you’ll destroy her. You’ll be breaking her future if you kill yourself.”Samira broke down in tears as she recounted this exchange to me, still deeply moved years later by the desperate situation that would lead a woman to feel her only option is death.Thankfully, the woman chose not to end her life. With Samira’s encouragement, she jumped into American life, learning to support herself and her daughter. Today, she smiles freely and enjoys life. She contributes to American society, and her daughter is gaining many valuable experiences.While the memories and horror of her experiences will never leave her, she is no longer desperate.In fact, she is thriving.Thriving in AmericaThere was the young girl from West Africa who suffered and survived genital mutilation, who suffered and survived multiple rapes, who tried to commit suicide. Coming to America was hopeful for her – a fresh start.But when she found work in a restaurant here in Utah, she began to be abused by a co-worker who would throw things at her and tell her to clean them – in addition to her already-heavy workload.She loved where she worked, but didn’t know how to get out from under this treatment. Would speaking up get her in trouble? Would she lose the chance to stay in America? Should she just stay quiet?She came to Samira in tears, and Samira helped her understand her rights and how to approach her boss with the information about what was happening.“When these women come to America, they have one thing in common,” Samira said. “They want someone to hear them. Advocate for them. Educate them and show them the way. Ease their way into American society.”samira-harnishAnd Samira does just that. She’s developed a safe community within Women of the World, where women can be heard and helped; where woman can learn to advocate for themselves; where they can gain empowering education and can contribute to Utah’s rich culture.“I want people to see these ladies,” Samira said. “I don’t want us to look at them and say they’re coming here to take our money. I just want fresh thinking. They are here. How do we make them good citizens if we’re not paying attention to them and not being a friend to them?”Samira doesn’t just talk the talk. She also walks the walk, and to date has helped 400 women become empowered right here in Utah. These women are not only helping to support their families, but they are giving back to the community at large – as well as the Women of the World community, with many of them choosing to volunteer their time once they find their footing.12402049_1086169761423899_991451615808452249_oA donation to Women of the World helps women, which helps families, which helps the community. We all win when someone heals from past horrors, when someone learns English and finds a job, when someone learns how to speak up for herself and be treated with dignity.Women of the World heals and empowers.Please donate to help a woman gain her footing here in America. Simply choose an amount below.

Fashion Show Salt Lake City Event

It is that time again... Women's Fashion Show Salt Lake City Event, celebrating International Women's Day and our new refugee neighbors and their cultural heritage.This fashion and cultural event is at once a heartfelt celebration of the various refugee cultures in our community (Sudanese, Burundi, Iraqi, Burmese, and many others) and a celebration of the beauty and fashion of women from around the world.  Our new neighbors have struggled against war, rape, genocide, oppression in their native homes and in refugee camps and are determined to make Salt Lake City home, a community where they contribute!  And contribute they are... our ladies are making some of the greatest strides in overcoming PTSD, illiteracy, and poverty and contributing in their children's schools, in the workplace, and in college and university.  More than this, they contribute to our understanding of the world and to our humanity in helping others new to where we grew up and live.The Women of the World Fashion Show Event is:

WHEN: Thursday, 5 March 2015 : 5:30 - 9:00WHERE: Pierpont Place, 163 Pierpont Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84101TICKETS: ($35 includes food & Fashion Show ticket... a wonderful opportunity to meet some of these courageous ladies!)CONTACT: 801 - 648 - 9692 or samira 'at' womenofworld 'dot' org

We are actively searching for sponsors to join Ally Bank, Pierpont Place, and Soul Salt who are graciously donating resources to enable our 3rd Annual Fashion Show Event to be the best yet.  Please utilize these local businesses that support community development and our new refugee neighbors.allyimageslogoPlease join us for this wonderful event! 

Sexual Violence Prevention

The Human Rights Education Project of the Salt Lake City Community Empowerment group collaborated with the Women Of the World Organization to present a workshop about Sexual Violence Prevention last Saturday.

There were 35 people in attendance at the workshop & five different nationalities (Iraq, Jordan, Nepal, Karenni & Karen).  We had 4 interpreters help to get the information to the ladies and men.  The subjects was very interesting, educational, and helpful to them.  They were all involved with reading the stories and discussing the problems, how to prevent them, and what they would do if they had the problem in their house.  The audience was very lively and involved with the material.  When I gave a ride to the ladies, they were talking about it in the car & thanking me for giving them the opportunity to be involved in this subject.

I appreciate the Mayor's Office for giving us the opportunity to do this workshop.  Thank you very much for Alana Kindness & Stephany Murguia for giving the lecture, it was very valuable and the material was very understandable.  Thank you to Amy Wylie for donating the hygiene products to the audience. Thank you very much for the interpreters, for without them, the material would never be understood. P1030887P1030886P1030888P1030882

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