LIRS board member Elaine Richter Bryant shared her thoughts on what it takes to move beyond hospitality and truly welcome another person.
LIRS Board member Dr. Judith A. Diers shared with us how welcoming strangers has been a part of her family’s life.
How have you “made room for one more” in your life?
Susan sent us this text message and picture from Jaqué, Panama.
¿Cómo es la situación para Los colombianos en Jaqué? Como respondió una señora, Por un Lado bien Poe otro Lado malo. No hay trabajo y Los colombianos con permiso temporario humanitario no pueden salir de Jaqué sin permiso. Aún para trabajar en la cosecha. La mayoría de Los colombianos viven entre la población local. Sin embargo, la falta de un estado legal permanente les hace ansiosos.
What is the condition of Colombians in Jaqué? One woman responded, “on one hand good, on the other bad.” There are no jobs and the Colombians with temporary humanitarian status are not allowed to leave Jaqué without permission. Even for working in the harvest. The majority of the Colombians live among the local population. Nonetheless, the lack of a permanent legal status leaves them anxious.
The Rev. F. Eric Wester is a chaplain and colonel in the U.S. Army, serves as senior military fellow at the Institute for National Security Ethics and Leadership, National Defense University at Fort McNair, and sits on the LIRS Board’s Program Committee. Eric shared with us his story of welcoming refugees fleeing war in Kosovo.
Susan is on the move! With her busy schedule of visits and meetings she is sending us quick text updates whenever she gets a break and we will pass them along as they come in. (A brief analysis of Susan’s thoughts follow):
Terminamos el primer día de reuniones en Panama. La oficina del ACNUR pone la mayor atención a la reforma legal para conseguir acceso a la protección y la integración. Quiero hablar con los mismos colombianos para escuchar sus opiniones Al respeto. Parece muy difícil para alguien con pocos recursos. ¿Donde encuentran esperanza? de Los 50 solicitantes de asilo el mes pasado, solo 2 casos serán presentados a la Comisión para Refugiados para evaluarlos. Ninguno de Los casos es colombiano. Me refiero a Los 2 casos. De Los 50 solicitantes, la mayoría son colombianos
We have finished the first day of meetings in Panama. The UNHCR office puts greater emphasis on the legal reforms needed to create access to protection and integration. I want to talk to the Colombians to hear their thoughts on the subject. It seems very difficult for someone with few resources. Where do they find hope? Of the fifty asylum seekers last month, only two cases will be presented to the Refugee Commission for evaluation. Neither of those two cases is Colombian although the majority of applicants were Colombian.
When Susan mentions the UNHCR office’s focus on “legal reforms” she is referring to their strategy implementation. Their strategy, outlined here, lists a three tiered approach, based on the principles agreed to in the Mexico Plan of action. It seems that UNHCR is utilizing its resources to concentrate solely on the first agreed upon principle, Cities of Solidarity, which according to the UNHCR, “supports the local integration and self-reliance of people in need of international protection in urban areas. It aims to ensure that refugees receive health care, education, access to employment and housing, on par with services provided to nationals.” While we believe that this is a much needed facet for the work of the UNHCR, to be myopic in focus does not provide the much needed relief to refugees forced into marginalization in dangerous jungle area camps. Access and referral to third country resettlement is a viable durable solution for many Colombian refugees in this region and especially in Panama.
Susan also commented on their material needs: “It seems very difficult for someone with few resources. Where do they find hope?”
Access to the labor market is a continuing problem facing many refugees seeking protection in neighboring countries. This is true not only for refugees denied legal status by host governments (who are then de facto economic migrants in the eyes of the state), but also for legally recognized refugees who face xenophobia and employment discrimination despite holding work permits. Living in limbo creates insecurity and daily fear for refugees in unrecognized, unfunded and underserved camps in the jungle regions of Panama as well as those refugees living under the constant fear of detention and deportation in Panama city.
We will pass along more observations and analysis as it comes in. For now Susan is on the move again already:
Hoy viajamos de la capital a Jaqué y Puerto Piña en la región de Darién.
Panamá es un país de muchos recursos e inversiones extranjeras pero también de mucha desigualdad económica.
A pesar de las patrullas de a policía fronteriza no hay presencia del ACNUR en Darién.
Today we traveled from the capital to Jaqué and Puerto Piña in the Darién region.
Panama is a country of vast resources and foreign investments, but also of wide gaps in inequality.
Even though there is a police presence along the border, there is no UNHCR presence in Darién.
In early November, Susan Krehbiel, Vice President for Protection and Programs will be representing LIRS as she joins Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) and other non-governmental organization (NGO’s) to take a first-hand look at how Colombian refugees are living in Ecuador and Panama.
In an interview prior to the trip, Susan shared with us why she thinks this trip is important and what she thinks we need to see as a country:
“It is really important for us to remember that when people have to make the most horrific decision to leave their homes and cross borders; that it then becomes the responsibility of all of us to provide a way for them to be protected from harm. We have to take that commitment seriously as a nation that has a strong tradition of welcoming newcomers to our shores. We have a particular place in this world of leadership that we need to exercise, and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to do that again.”
We hope you will join us and share in the passion Susan and others feel for those who have had to leave their home countries due to horrific situations. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to get regular updates from Susan’s trip or visit lirs.org to learn more about our mission and how you can get involved.
The Brookings Institute is a non-profit think tank based in Washington D.C. that provides independent research and innovative, practical policy recommendations. The Institute’s Hamilton Project, launched in 2006, which focuses on research and policy proposals to grow the U.S. economy, and has recently release a report about the economic facts of immigration. In their effort to ground the current immigration debate in the best available evidence, the Hamilton Project has published a helpful pamphlet called “Ten Economic Facts About Immigration”. The publication offers helpful, clear information about the economic effects of immigration, summarized here.
1) Today’s immigrants come form more diverse backgrounds than a century ago: in 1910, immigrants from Europe and Canada were 95% of the foreign-born population in the United States, but today immigrants hail from a much broader range of countries.
2) Immigrants bring a diverse set of skills and education: immigrants today are both better and worse educated than U.S.-born citizens. The U.S. immigrant population has both a higher proportion than U.S.-born citizens of people with advanced degrees and people with less than a high school education.
3) On average, immigrants improve the standards of living for Americans: Academic research suggests that immigrants on average boost wages and lower prices for American workers.
4) Immigrants are NOT a net drain on the federal budget: Taxes paid by both legal and undocumented immigrants exceed the costs of the services they use.
5) Both immigration enforcement funding and the number of unauthorized immigrants have increased since 2003: Although the United States has dramatically increased spending on border security, evidence shows it has been ineffective in curtailing the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, with that number continuing to rise between 2003 and 2007.
6) Immigrants do NOT disproportionately burden U.S. correctional facilities: Census data on correctional facilities and mental hospitals shows that U.S.-born citizens are five times more likely than immigrants to be institutionalized.
7) Recent immigrants reflect America’s melting pot: Data collected on recent waves of immigrants and their children showing consistent rates of integration and assimilation.
8) The skill composition of U.S. immigrants differs from that of other countries: The United States does not allot a large percentage of visas for employment-based immigration, unlike countries like Canada or New Zealand.
9) Immigrants start new businesses and file patents at higher rates than U.S.-born citizens: Immigrants are 30% more likely to form a new business than U.S.-born citizens and among those with advanced degrees immigrants are three times more likely to file a patent.
10) America is issuing a declining number of visas for high-skilled workers: Many of today’s international students studying in the United States either plan to leave the United States or are uncertain about remaining, potentially causing reverse brain-drain.
LIRS applauds the efforts of groups like The Brookings Institute that seek to educate the public on issues like immigration so that together we can use our knowledge to create a more just and humane immigration system. Join us on Twitter, or Facebook. Visit our homepage. To learn more about our immigration advocacy work, visit the LIRS Stand for Welcome.
On September 28, 2010, the Hamilton Project hosted an event to discuss the economic impact of immigrants. The event began with a panel discussion: “The Economic Evidence on Immigration.” According to the moderator, in the immigration debate, there is an absence of facts. The panel discussed the facts and concurrently dispelled some common immigration myths like immigrants lower the living standard of natives.
- Professor Peri found that immigrants have a positive impact on US-born workers– they lower the prices of goods and services, and increase wages. Furthermore, there is no crowd-out effect because immigrants and natives generally compete for different types of jobs.
- James Smith found that immigrants are not a drain on the federal government budget– the taxes they pay are greater than the cost of the services they use.
- Darrell West stated that during periods of recession, we need high-skilled foreign workers because they promote economic activity through innovation and new technology. Unfortunately, the number of employment based visas is low.
The second panel focused on: “Immigration Policy: Impacts on Workers, Employers and America’s Future.”
- Steve Hyman stated that there is no crowding-out effect among students– U.S. students generally choose the financial sector, while foreign students tend to focus on the sciences. U.S. research labs would be empty without foreign students. Labs have the secondary effect of creating jobs.
- Lydia Tamez stressed the need for foreign workers and students because U.S. workers and students are not filling certain fields.
- John Wilhelm stated that continued immigration is necessary– especially with the shrinking native population. Otherwise, businesses and industries like his own (hospitality) could not open their doors.
The event’s guest speaker was Melody Barnes, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, White House. Ms. Barnes stated that our immigration system is broken, but President Obama is committed to reform. He plans to work with our members of Congress to develop comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).
The event ended with a speech by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson via video. Gov. Richardson, a border state governor, is frustrated that people cannot put politics aside and pass a immigration reform legislation. He believes that CIR should be a national priority.
LIRS is committed to pass immigration reform legislation. Please visit the Stand for Welcome webpage and act now:http://blog.lirs.org/site/c.nhLPJ0PMKuG/b.5542979/k.846E/Stand_for_Welcome_Campaign.htm