By Manya-Jean Gitter
This week several state legislators decided to take action in support of refugees. Despite negative campaign rhetoric and misinformation, national security leaders have confirmed that refugees are the most rigorously vetted group to enter the United States. Encouragingly, Iowa and South Carolina enacted policies this week that will benefit refugees, while New York pressures the federal government to increase refugee admissions.
South Carolina’s legislature adjourned for 2016 without enacting S.997, a bill that would prohibit state and local funds from being expended for any direct or indirect benefit of refugees, shielding refugees from another round of suffering and struggle.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad approved $300,000 for RefugeeRISE, a program to improve the economic well-being and health of economically disadvantaged refugees in local communities across the state. Based on the AmeriCorps model, this initiative empowers refugees who have already acclimated to life in Iowa to help newly arrived refugees learn how to thrive in the workplace.
Additionally, Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Carlos Menchaca of the New York Council introduced a new resolution calling upon the president and the State Department to meet their committment to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States by the end of 2016 and to increase such number to 65,000 by the end of 2017. Councilmember Levin’s office is pushing for a hearing to be approved for later this month.
These developments show us that some state leaders understand that helping refugees means strengthening their state’s workforce and economic potential. It would behoove other states to accept that refugees are not a security threat but rather an economic asset and a benefit to national security interests.