We use the terms immigrants and refugees so interchangeably that it makes it seem like both sets of groups have the same experience. In reality, the experiences and classifications for what it means to be an immigrant or refugee differs greatly.
To give you a breakdown, an immigrant is someone who chooses to resettle in another country and seeks legal residency and eventual citizenship. Refugees are individuals who have been forced to leave their home countries due to a fear of being persecuted based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion.
All refugees classify as immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees. Both categories are trying to move to the United States for a better life. But in the perspective of humanitarian need, one group is more urgent to deal with. Let's get more specific in terms of the Syrian refugee crisis.
It seems like the crisis has been in the news for so long that people are almost immune to any information regarding it. This is not OK. This is still a tragedy where more than 11 million people had to flee their homes in hopes to find opportunities to live peacefully.
Why are we more accepting of immigrants than refugees?
This is a country built on immigrants, contrary to what people may believe. Despite Donald Trump's continuous rants, it has been documented that approximately $13 billion of tax contributions are from undocumented workers, but they only use $1 billion, resulting in a $12 billion net profit. Immigrants have been an essential part of this country for decades, and they continue to contribute to society on a daily basis.
If we were to shun and never accept immigrants, we wouldn't have the works of Yoko Ono, hear the greatness of Wyclef Jean or the hilarity of Sofía Vergara. These are celebrities who have been accepted and beloved by millions around the world.
For the most part, qualified immigrants are individuals who the government believes can contribute in industries that need extra help. That is not to say undocumented immigrants do not contribute. They make up 11 percent of food industry workers, 26 percent of the farming, fishing and forestry industry and 14 percent of all construction and extraction jobs. No matter how you look at it, undocumented and documented immigrants contribute to our society because they have been given the opportunity to do so.
What about the humanitarian needs?
You may ask, why should we accept refugees, especially since these are individuals in need? You may argue that for security and funding reasons, we should stop accepting refugees. But, that is complete bullsh*t. These are individuals who have the opportunity to contribute and make our country a better place. These are people who have lost their families and have no hope for a future in their homeland.
These are people who need a way out, and you're scared to accept them due to security or funding issues? What about humanitarian issues? What about the families who are in serious need of our assistance? If they are not given the chance to thrive in our country, they will not have the opportunity to contribute.
There is a difference in the individuals we label as immigrants and refugees, but the bottom line is, there should be no difference in how these individuals are treated. So many people come to the United Stated because it is a country where individuals hope to succeed and achieve the American Dream. A label should not stop anyone from trying to do so.