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Executive Order 13769: Learn More

Syrian refugees receive plastic sheets at a distribution center in Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp. UNHCR/ J. Kohler/November 2013

Syrians & the World Wide Refugee Crisis - International Institute PowerPoint Presentation (Updated March 22, 2016)

Syrian Refugee Crisis - YouTube presentation by Anna Crosslin - December 3, 2015 (43:09)

Why Refugees? - International Institute PowerPoint Presentation (March 21, 2016)

About Executive Order 13769

Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States

Seattle Judge Blocks Executive Order

Practice Alert: Details on Suspension of Travel and Refugee Ban by TRO (Updated February 4, 2017)

US Department of State (Travel) Website

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Current Security Screening Process for Refugees

This is what it takes for a refugee to be admitted into the U.S.- Washington Post - February 9, 2017 (video 2:38)

Security Screening of Refugees Admitted to the United States - USCRI - May 16, 2016

Refugees are already vigorously vetted. I know because I vetted them, former immigration officer speaks, February 1, 2017.

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Polls, Studies, and Resources

Watch: Syrian refugees tell their stories - Brookings Institution - March 3, 2016

Study indicates immigration not to blame for terrorism - Warwick - February 11, 2016

Pentagon says anti-Muslim rhetoric undermines U.S. national security - Reuters - December 8, 2015

Homegrown Jihadists More Dangerous Than Refugees, U.S. Voters Tell Quinnipiac University National Poll - Quinnipiac University - December 3, 2015

ISIS in America: GW Examines Americans Recruited by Islamic State in First Comprehensive Report - Media Relations - December 1, 2015

The Economic Impact of Immigration on St. Louis - a study by Jack Strauss, former Director of the Simon Center for Regional Forecasting, Saint Louis University

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Statements and Faith Support

We Stand With the New Americans of Missouri - ACLU - February 3, 2017

Jewish Federation of St. Louis Statement on the Executive Order Concerning Refugees - Jewish Federation of St. Louis - February 2, 2017

St. Louis superintendent says the district supports refugees, immigrants - St. Louis Post Dispatch - January 31, 2017

Statement Regarding Recent Executive Order on Refugees and Migrants - Archdiocese of St. Louis - January 30, 2017

More than 3,500 Religious Leaders Sign Letter Supporting Refugee Resettlement - Interfaith Immigration Coalition

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News Coverage and Press Releases

Refugee Resettlement Facts - UNHCR

Fact-Checking Claims About Trump’s Travel Ban - New York Times - Februrary 23, 2017

American attitudes on refugees from the Middle East - Brookings - June 13, 2016

The Refugee Crisis Told Through Syrian Artists - The World Post - April 12, 2016

Zaatari Refugee Camp From Above - BBC Shorts - March 2, 2016

Syria's War: The Descent Into Horror - Council on Foreign Relations - March 2016

How Do Sunni and Shia Islam Differ? - The New York Times - January 3, 2016

Wartime Xenophobia Is An American Tradition - Newsy (video 2:31) - December 9, 2015

It's Been Done: This city let in tens of thousands of mostly Muslim refugees. Here's what happened. - Fusion - November 25, 2015

St. Louis, City of Refuge - St. Louis Magazine - November 25, 2015

Video: Syria's war: A 5-minute history

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How You Can Help

In the community or at your place of work:

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Most Commonly Asked Questions (Updated January 2017)

Here are a number of questions which are frequently asked about refugee resettlement. Please read through the list or click on the following set of titles to view the response to a particular question. Thanks.

Click here for a printer friendly version of the questions.

  1. I have a spare bedroom. Can I host a refugee family?
  2. How many refugees are available for resettlement in the US?
  3. How do I bring friends/family in Syria or other countries to the US?
  4. Refugees get huge settlement grants and interest free loans from the US government, don’t they?
  5. Don’t we risk admitting terrorists posing as refugees?
  6. Refugees and other immigrants are competition for unemployed Americans, especially African-Americans, aren’t they?
  7. Can we really afford to settle refugees when we have limited dollars and other needs?
  8. Will Syrians and other Muslims embrace our culture?

1. I have a spare bedroom. Can I host a refugee family?

The short answer is “no,” but there are still many ways you can help.

For the past 35 years, the US resettlement program has operated through a network of sectarian and non-sectarian resettlement agencies, which vary from city to city. These national voluntary agencies (VOLAGS) include the International Rescue Committee, World Relief, US Catholic Conference of Bishops, the US Committee for Refugees & Immigrants (USCRI), and others. Local faith-based or other affiliates contract with the US government to resettle refugees, agreeing to locate housing, make referrals for English classes, employment and other adjustment services and to recruit individual volunteers and groups to assist.

In St. Louis, the only agency which is currently approved as a resettlement sponsor is the International Institute of St. Louis, located on Arsenal St., in South St. Louis City. Newly arrived refugees are frequently resettled in nearby housing for convenient access to initial transition services. The 98-year old Institute provides a wide variety of services to 8,000 immigrants and refugees annually from 80 countries.

So while offering housing for refugees is not a part of the program, the Institute has a variety of volunteer opportunities where community members can enhance the resettlement process, working alongside of our staff or on your own. Visit www.iistl.org to learn about volunteer opportunities and other ways to help.

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2. How many refugees are available for resettlement in the US?

Presently there are more than 60 million refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the world, including more than 20 million refugees. This has resulted in the largest refugee crisis since WWII. (Note: Refugees have fled outside the borders of their home country and IDPs are displaced within their home country.) Some are living in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-operated camps in surrounding countries, namely Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. But most refugees have been residing outside the camps, living in limbo. They have had no jobs, housing or access to schools. Whatever money they had has been running out. Hundreds of thousands have been fleeing to Europe by boat and foot especially in the fall and winter of 2015. Thousands are now caught in limbo because of walls that have been constructed at the borders of countries through which they must travel on their journey north to Germany and other European safe havens. But in any case, once they depart the Middle East, they are no longer eligible for resettlement in the US.

As is the case with most refugee groups, we expect that the bulk of refugees now living in the camps will want to return to their homes if peace can be negotiated. Others may have opportunities to remain in their temporary host country on a more permanent basis. For a small number, permanent resettlement to a “third country” including the US may be the best option.

Within the camps UNHCR has been working to identify refugees who for a variety of reasons, including medical, family structure and safety, would benefit from third country sponsorship. UNHCR has identified 240,000 so far. In all 2015, the White House announced a desire to increase refugee resettlement to 85,000 in the last fiscal year and 100,000 in the current. The number were to accommodate Syrians and Iraqis who needed resettlement in larger than expected numbers. In December 2015, Congress provided funding to meet the first year recommendation but since the federal government is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution funding for the larger number has not as yet been approved.

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3. How do I bring friends/family in Syria or other countries to the US?

To qualify for the US Refugee Resettlement Program, an individual/family must be outside his or her native country and make application to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Once a family is approved for Third Country resettlement, their name may be forwarded to one country or another for consideration for resettlement. Having family already residing in the US is given consideration but does not guarantee assignment to the US interview team or selection by the team.

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4. Refugees get huge settlement grants and interest free loans from the US government, don’t they?

No. A modest grant of $1,125 is provided on a per capita basis. Resettlement agencies are required to meet a variety of basic needs including housing, food and transportation costs for 90 days after arrival. Frequently, the needs exceed available funding as noted on the following chart:

Household Size Single Person 2 People 3 People 4 People 5 People
Spending Money $20 $30 $30 $40 $40
Security Deposit $500 $500 $550 $650 $800
Rent (3 months) $1,500 $1,500 $1,650 $1,950 $2,400
Home Set-up $400 $500 $600 $900 $1,100
Utilities (3 months) $945 $945 $945 $1,100 $1,100
Food @ 5 day/each $150 $300 $450 $600 $750
Bus Pass (1 month) $90 $180 $180 $240 $240
Subtotal - Expense $3,605 $3,955 $4,405 $5,480 $6,430
Resettlement Allowance $1,125 $2,250 $3,375 $4,500 $5,625
Funding Gap ($2,480) ($1,705) ($1,030) ($980) ($805)

Sometimes, refugees live within walking distance of their services and do not need bus passes; other times their landlord might waive the security deposit. In any case, the resettlement agency must reach out to the community for charitable contributions to meet the funding gap, which averages $100 per refugee sponsored.

To assist with initial transition, refugees are also eligible for TANF benefits (cash assistance) at MO State rates and Medicaid for no longer than eight months after arrival. However, since TANF rates are so low, most newly arrived refugees go to work as soon as they can find a job, regardless of their knowledge of English or previous work experience. For example, in 2014, the percent of families with at least one working adult was:

  1. 4 months after arrival: 67%
  2. 6 months after arrival: 85%

Refugees sign a promissory note overseas and are required to begin repaying their travel loans to the UN travel contractor after six months of residence in the US. Travel can cost as much as $1,500/person.

Finally, there are special small business start-up loans available for refugee entrepreneurs at the International Institute. However, the interest rate for such loans is higher than if they borrowed from a bank. Once they build their credit history and acquire collateral, we encourage such borrowers to seek business loans to a traditional banking institution.

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5. Don’t we risk admitting terrorists posing as refugees?

Admitting refugees to the US is a time-consuming and rigorous multi-step process which can take 18 months to two years to completion. And even then, less than ½ of one percent of the world’s refugees will be selected.

Here is a link to a thorough listing of security and health checks that each refugee must undergo.

Throughout our history, each new refugee group admitted to the US has faced the same fears. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was widespread fear that North Vietnamese soldiers and spies had infiltrated the ranks of the Vietnamese Boat People. In the 1990s, fears were expressed about Bosnian Muslims and their Middle East affiliations. Decades later, as we look back on earlier resettlement waves, we realize that our fears were largely unfounded.

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6. Refugees and other immigrants are competition for unemployed Americans, especially African-Americans, aren’t they?

In spring 2013 Professor Jack Strauss, Miller Chair of Applied Economics at the University of Denver (and formerly of Saint Louis University) published a landmark study titled, “Allies, Not Enemies: How Latino Immigration Boosts African-American Employment and Wages.”

He used a cross-section of 907 MSAs and 455 Metro areas in 2005, carefully controlling for “cause and effect.” The results were fascinating. For instance, for every 1% increase in a city’s share of Latinos, African-American median and mean wages increased by 3%. He deduced that if St. Louis’s share of Latinos was as high as similarly-sized metro areas, African American wages would be approximately 30% higher. Additionally, he found that such growth in Latinos would result in significant job growth among all African-American age cohorts. There would be fewer in poverty and more with higher incomes as well.

This positive economic impact is related to population. The City of St. Louis has experienced a sharply declining population. St. Louis County population has also declined, albeit more modestly. Fewer residents create a spiraling down effect, resulting in a lower tax base, school enrollment and the loss of accessible jobs for city residents, many of whom are African-Americans.

We need new population to re-invigorate neighborhoods that are emptying out as residents move to St. Louis County. Since St. Louis and Missouri are comprised of an aging population, we cannot rely on birth rate among our current residents to replace the lost population. Immigration is the best means of increasing our population and rebuilding our cities for the benefit of all.

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7. Can we really afford to settle refugees when we have limited dollars and other needs?

The initial cost of resettling refugees is modest since, within a few years, many refugee newcomers as with other immigrants, start small businesses. In a 2012 study by Professor Jack Strauss (noted in the previous section) title “The Economic Impact of Immigration in St. Louis,” Strauss noted that immigrants, regardless of education and skills background, are 60% more likely to start a small business than native-born Americans. Small business development is a major engine that drives the US economy. These small businesses purchase goods and services from other businesses, pay taxes, and otherwise help local communities, including St. Louis, build their economies to the benefit of all residents.

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8. Will Syrians and other Muslims embrace our culture?

St. Louis’ history and culture are a rich mosaic of the many different groups which have settled here throughout our history. The cultures of Native Americans, Germans, Irish, Italian and others have been joined by those of more recent arrivals including Vietnamese, Bosnian, Hispanic, Chinese, Congolese and more. Each arriving culture has brought new language, food, music, sometimes even religion. But their shared cultural values are frequently the same. Long-timers and newcomers alike value excellent education, religious freedom, family values and the importance of community.

Other Muslims including Iraqis, Bosnians and Iranians have lived in St. Louis for many decades. Their children attend schools with our children; they live in our neighborhoods; they are business owners. They have joined us in the ranks of American citizenship and they love America, their new home when they were left with none. If we welcome them and provide opportunities for them to integrate, these newcomers, and their children, will help form the next generation of Americans dedicated to excellence on a world stage.

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