Why Should Americans Care About Refugee Resettlement? We Asked U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

The number of refugees resettled every year in the United States is at the lowest level since the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program began in 1980. With fewer refugees, a vital piece of the fabric of American society is at risk of disappearing. Refugees are our neighbors. They revitalize our economies. They are in frontline jobs in healthcare, teaching, and the food industry that have kept our country afloat through COVID-19. Refugees fleeing unspeakable violence and persecution come to the United States with hope for a new future. And in pursuing that hope, they give back in countless ways.

This month, the Trump administration stands to make a decision on the number of refugees who may be resettled here in the next fiscal year. Refugees International is fiercely advocating that the administration do what is right for America and for the world: welcome refugees.

But don’t just take our word for it.

We asked U.S. Senator Dick Durbin why the world needs a robust U.S. refugee resettlement program.


The year was 1939. A ship, the S.S. St. Louis, sought permission to dock in America. There were 900 Jewish refugees on board from Europe. They were trying to escape Nazism and ultimately the Holocaust. The decision was made by the U.S. government not let the S.S. St. Louis dock. In desperation, they returned to Europe, and many of those who were on board, lost their lives in concentration camps. It was one of the saddest chapters in American immigration history.

Many people afterwards of both political parties said “never again.” Since this tragedy, the United States has set an example for the world, providing safe haven to millions of refugees with strong bipartisan support. We’re in the midst now of a refugee crisis, it’s one of the worst in history. But tragically, despite this, the bigotry that led some to turn away Jewish refugees during the Holocaust has reared its ugly head again in America.

For the last three years, President Trump has lowered refugee admissions to new record lows. Where the United States used to lead the world in accepting refugees and providing them safe haven, now we don’t. Let’s be clear, those who seek refugee status in the United States, are carefully, carefully vetted to make sure that they’re no danger to our country.

Today’s refugees, like millions before them, from all over the world, will become proud Americans someday, who will make great contributions to our society. The stories of such refugees doing just that are voluminous. But we have to give them a chance. We should focus on real threats to our security, instead of abandoning innocent families and children who are fleeing war and terrorism.

Building walls at our borders and fear in our hearts is not going to move this nation of immigrants forward. Let’s not continue the cruelty and deception of blaming immigrants and refugees for America’s challenges. We’re better than this. We can keep this nation safe and provide safe haven to the most vulnerable as we’ve done—both parties have done—for decades.