Mark Hetfield is the President and CEO of HIAS, the oldest refugee assistance organization in operation. We discuss our humanitarian obligations to refugees, the tremendous benefits that they bring to American society, and bust the misconceptions about the current refugee situation in the US.
Taking refugees is an act of humanity
Refugees have escaped persecution, their country, their homes, and their jobs in order to survive. The Refugee Convention of 1951 is an international law that requires countries to give them protection. We bring refugees to the US because it’s a way to protect human rights and our collective humanity.
Refugees are a tremendous positive force
They are among the most productive members of society because they have lost everything, and they know that they can’t take anything for granted. In the US, refugees have contributed many billions of dollars more than they take in services. Some of our most successful companies, such as Google and Intel, were started by refugees.
We have enormous untapped capacity to resettle refugees
The US can take in hundreds of thousands of refugees without noticing the impact or the stress. Many faith-based agencies are clamoring to welcome and help more refugees, but the exhaustive and extreme vetting process to enter the country and the cut in funding will result in the resettlement of less than 20,000 refugees in the US this year.
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Mark Hetfield is the CEO and President of HIAS, a refugee assistance organization, and a major implementing partner of the United Nations Refugee Agency and the U.S. Department of State.