Inflammation and stories on immigration

Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
Photo: Pixabay

Worker Remittances and Poverty in the Arab World
The Arab world has one of the highest proportions of migrant to local workers in the world, with over 32 million migrant workers in the Arab states in 2015 alone. In addition, the region has one of the largest diasporas in the world. This means that many skilled workers are emigrating to wealthier countries and sending money home via remittances. But what do remittances in the Arab World mean for the region and its inhabitants?

Brain Drain vs. Gain

In Lebanon and Jordan, unskilled labor is provided by growing numbers of refugees and foreign workers, totaling over five million in 2015. However, as more foreign workers enter the country, growing numbers of high-skilled Lebanese and Jordanian nationals are emigrating. This often occurs when opportunities are limited, when unemployment is high and economic growth slows. The phenomenon is dubbed ‘brain drain’ as opposed to ‘brain gain’, whereby an increasing stock of human capital boosts economies. A drain occurs while poor countries lose their most high-skilled workers and wealthier countries in turn gain these educated professionals.

Remittances in the Arab World

These expatriates commonly work to improve their own living situations while also helping to support their friends and families. This is where remittances come into play. As defined by the Migration Data Portal, remittances are financial or in-kind transfers made by migrants to friends and relatives in their communities of origin. Remittances often exceed official development aid.  They are also frequently more effective in alleviating poverty. In 2014 alone, the Arab states remitted more than $109 billion, largely from the United States followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

There is no denying that remittances can be a strong driving force for the socioeconomic stability of many Arab countries. But not all the influences are positive. Some experts argue that remittances can actually hurt the development of recipient countries. Their arguments cite potential negative effects of labor mobility and over-reliance on remittances. They emphasize that this can create dependency which undermines recipients’ incentive to find work. All this means an overall slowing of economic growth and a perpetuation of current socioeconomic status.

The Force of the Diaspora

The link between remittances in the Arab world and poverty is clear. Brain drain perpetuates and high amounts of remittance inflow and outflow persist if living conditions remain unchanged. Policymakers are therefore focusing efforts on enticing emigrants to return to their countries of origin. By strengthening ties with migrant networks, and implementing strategies like entrepreneurial start-up incentives and talent plans, the initial negative effects of brain drain could be curbed.

Overall, though brain drain and remittances can seem to hurt development in the short-term, if policies can draw high-skilled workers back, contributions to long-term economic development can erase these negative aspects altogether. Young populations that have emigrated to more developed countries acquire education and valuable experience that is essential to promote entrepreneurship in their home countries. Moreover, their experiences in advanced democracies can bolster their contribution to improved governance in their countries of origin. The Arab world’s greatest untapped potential is its diaspora, and it could be the key to a more prosperous future, if only it can be harnessed.

Natalie Marie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts To Know about Mexican Immigration
The topic of immigration is inescapable in contemporary American politics. Political figures, news sources, late-night TV shows, other media outlets- it seems this topic is constantly being talked about. This coverage has created a flood of information about immigration in the United States, particularly about immigration from Mexico. But not all of this information is accurate. In the text below, eight facts about Mexican immigration are presented in an attempt to shed a light on this topic.

Eight Facts About Mexican Immigration

  1. Most unauthorized immigrants in the United States actually entered the country legally and have just overstayed their temporary visas. For the seventh year in a row, the number of people who have overstayed visas is far greater than the number who illegally crossed the Southern border. In addition, in 2017, undocumented immigrants from Mexico accounted for less than half of the undocumented population in the United States.
  2. Many immigrants crossing the United States’ Southern border are from Central America, not Mexico. The majority of the migrants from Central America come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
  3. Immigrants from Mexico and Central America are typically fleeing poverty, violence and crime as approximately 44 percent of Mexicans, 60.9 percent of Hondurans, 59.3 percent of Guatemalans and 38.2 percent of Salvadorans live beneath the poverty line. El Salvador also has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Gang violence, drug trafficking and political corruption are prevalent in these nations.
  4. Mexican immigration into the United States has actually been declining since the mid-2000s, and so has the number of apprehensions at the Southern border.
  5. In the 2006 fiscal year, more than one million immigrants were apprehended at the Southern border. In the 2017 fiscal year, this number was 303,916. This decline in migration is a result of numerous factors. First, the decrease in labor demand in sectors that employ the majority of Mexican immigrants, such as construction, is a major contributor to this decline. With fewer jobs available, fewer Mexicans have immigrated to the U.S. and many have returned to Mexico. This decrease in jobs was in part due to the recession in the late 2000s. The second cause of decreasing emigration is the improvement in the Mexican economy. In the 1980s, Mexico was in a deep economic crisis, but since the late 1990s, the country has experienced economic stability and modest growth.
  6. Though the standard of living for most Mexican families has improved, a majority of Mexicans are not optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country. One-third of them would still migrate to the U.S.
  7. Demographic changes in Mexico’s population have also contributed to decreased emigration. Drastically declining fertility rates have decreased the number of people entering the workforce each year, leading to an increase in labor demand and wages. In addition, many Mexican immigrants are fathers searching for work to support their families. Lower birth rates have reduced the size of Mexican families, lessening the financial burden on parents and making it possible for fathers to support their families without emigrating to the U.S.
  8. The United States’ increased border enforcement in the past two decades has also lowered the Mexican immigration rate. U.S. Border Patrol funding has skyrocketed since 1992, which has enabled the agency to increase its staff by more than 400 percent. However, this increase in border enforcement predated the decline in migration by more than 10 years, suggesting that this is not the main cause of decreasing immigration.

Poverty, violence, crime and corruption are the root causes of immigration from Mexico and Central America into the United States. International cooperation to fund development and alleviate global poverty addresses these root causes and is key to reducing immigration. The United Nations stresses the importance of global cooperation in addressing international immigration and the Council of Foreign Relations asserts that large-scale migration can be managed only with a global governance framework.

With the increased life standard in Mexico and more opportunities in the country, Mexican immigration to the United States can be reduced in a less painful way. Reducing immigration is important not because immigration is inherently bad, but because people should not have to flee their homes to have a safe, financially stable life. They should have the opportunity to immigrate to another country if they choose, but should also be able to lead a safe, stable, prosperous life in their home country.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

Immigration in Australia
Australia welcomed 208,000 immigrants in 2017, most of whom came from India, China and the U.K. This number was significantly higher than the 85,000 in 1996. Australia’s openness to accepting immigrants can be traced back to when prime minister John Howard was first elected in 1996. Howard emphasized accepting skilled migrants, rather than family migrants as a way to boost the economy. The number of permanent migrants from India was 3,000 in 1996 and 40,000 by 2013. The ration of family migrants to skilled migrants has now been reversed to where two-thirds of Australia’s immigrants are skilled migrants and only one-third are family migrants. Immigration in Australia is changing, and here are some reasons why.

The “Pacific Solution”

In 2001, John Howard implemented an immigration policy known as the “Pacific Solution.” The new immigration policy changed the requirements about where a noncitizen could apply for Australian protection. Previously, one could apply from any of Australia’s migration zone, which is comprised of thousands of islands off the coast of Australia. Under the change, Australia had made it so only people who reached the mainland could claim asylum. Australia’s navy was also given the power to stop migrant boats in the ocean, and the country officially started offshore migrant-processing camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In 2013, under the new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia extended the “Pacific Solution” to include the mainland, which basically meant migrants could be sent to the offshore detention facilities regardless of where their ships landed. Until then, those who reached mainland Australia could not legally be sent to Nauru or PNG. Now, asylum-seekers are held in the camps while their claims are processed. Even if they are found to have valid asylum claim, they are not allowed to settle in Australia. Instead, they may settle on Nauru or PNG. Australia even paid Cambodia $42 million to take four asylum-seekers.

Further Restrictions in Immigration

This immigration policy has had its critics, with some organizations claiming that the policy violates human rights. Howard claimed that the program protects Australia from the continuous number of boats and ships trying to land in the country.  However, Australia did grant 13,800 visas between 2013 and 2014 to Syrian refugee who had legally applied through its Humanitarian Programme, so the country is clearly open to housing refugees who enter the country legally. In 2017, Australia had received 35,170 new requests for asylum, with most refugees coming from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

In March of 2018, the 457 visas were replaced by the Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa. The number of primary visas granted for sponsored workers had decreased by 35 percent from July to September in 2017 compared to the same time frame in 2016. This can be attributed to the fact that the employers wanting to sponsor a 457 worker declined, resulting in a one-third reduction in available jobs.

This new policy will also require workers to have two years work experience to be eligible. Jobs deemed to fall under the Medium or Long-Term Strategic Skills list will give workers a four-year, renewable visa with a pathway to citizenship. However, jobs that fall under the Short-Term Skilled Occupation list will be restricted to a two-year, once refundable visa with no pathway to permanent residency.

Clearly, immigration in Australia is changing. It is unclear to what extent Australia will benefit or suffer from these newly implemented restrictions. One thing is for sure, immigrants seeking asylum are going to have a harder time finding it in Australia.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions In Mexico
The Pew Research Center reported that the number of unauthorized immigrants coming into the U.S. has stabilized at the number around 11 million, with 55 percent of immigrants coming from Mexico. In recent months, several news outlets have reported on numerous deportations and cases of illegal immigration throughout the U.S. What kind of living conditions do the Mexican people endure in Mexico if they feel that their only chance for a better life is to flee to the U.S.? More than 400,000 people were deported back to Mexico in 2016 alone. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Mexico shed light on the conditions that those returning encounter.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Mexico

  1. There have been major strides to reduce Mexico’s poverty rate over the years. One contributing factor to the reduction of poverty has been the program Prospera that gives struggling mothers an incentive to send their children to school and provide their children with regular health screenings. However, even with programs like this one, 43.6 percent of Mexico’s population still lives in poverty.
  2. Many Mexican households resort to meals consisting of rice and beans. They are cheap, easily accessible and don’t have a short shelf-life. The National Health and Nutrition Survey conducted in 2012 revealed that as a result of poor diet, Mexican families suffer a nutritional imbalance that leads to a risk of obesity and malnutrition.
  3. Mexico has various food assistance programs for families in need. One such program is Liconsa that provides milk to families with children and to those living under the national poverty line. A study conducted comparing food assistance programs in Mexico to those in the U.S. found that food stamps can comprise half of a household’s income in the U.S., while urban programs in Mexico make up only for 3.8 percent of a family’s income.
  4. Mexico is home to some of the worlds’ most active and dangerous drug cartels. Mexico’s war on drugs has claimed the lives of 245,999 citizens from 2007 through March 2018. The year 2017 saw the highest homicide number with over 29,000 victims.
  5. Sixty-one percent of the working population in Mexico has paying jobs and this number is low considering the national employment average is 67 percent. However, those that have jobs are expected to work longer hours to afford the costs of living. Thirty percent of Mexico’s workforce has to work 50 hours or more per week to survive, and this is the reason why it is more convenient for many to work elsewhere and send money back home.
  6. Mexico’s average household income peaked at $4,169 per year in 2008. Over the last ten years, there has been a sharp decline in yearly income per household in Mexico. In 2016, Mexican households were averaging a mere $2,718 per year. In order to afford the bare minimum costs of living in Mexico, one would need to be making at least $3,193 a year.
  7. Mexico was once home to one of the world’s worst slums, Ciudad Neza, home to 1.2 million people in 2016. Ciudad Neza has been transformed into a working community that now has access to clean water and sewage systems. It is a vast improvement from the make-shift squabbles with no electricity that people used to live in. It is by no means perfect and still draws in a great deal of crime, but progress has been made giving hope to many that still live without basic necessities.
  8. At less than $4 a day, Mexico holds one of Latin America’s lowest minimum wages. Income inequality can be credited to Mexico’s wage restriction policies that attracted foreign businesses to use Mexican workers as a cheap form of labor. State taxes have also played a significant role in keeping families in poverty by not taxing its citizens based on their income level.
  9. As of 2004, Mexico has ensured that a majority of its citizens receive health care through a universal health care plan. Before its establishment, only half of the working population were covered under their employers’ health insurance. Since its formation, Seguro Popular (health coverage for all in Mexico) has gone from supporting 3.1 million people to supporting 55.6 million people.
  10. Many changes have been made to Mexico’s water supply and access to proper sanitation facilities. Ninety-six percent of people in Mexico had access to clean drinking water in 2015, a vast improvement from 82.3 percent in 1990. From 1998 to 2005, the Mexican government oversaw the expansion of its Water and Sanitation for Rural Communities program aiding 4.8 million people with clean water and sanitation.

While there is still more to accomplish, Mexico has set forth legislation and policies that have greatly improved the quality of life for many of its citizens.

In July 2018, the Mexican people elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador as their next president. In addressing the problem of poverty in Mexico, Obrador has promised to cut the salaries of higher paid government workers to support education for the children of Mexico and pensions for the elderly. With new leadership and fresh ideas comes promised change, and stable living conditions for all of Mexico might be on the horizon.

– Catherine Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Immigrants Benefit ItalyImmigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, have been stigmatized across Europe, often labeled as benefit thieves and criminals. And in most situations, this population is never given the opportunity to prove otherwise.

These negative stereotypes have heavily impacted the way locals perceive immigrants; this perception occurs so much so that locals have been unable to detach the person from the stereotype, making it difficult to change public opinion. The first step in breaking these negative perceptions is to highlight the ways in which immigrants enrich our lives, communities and economy. Immigrants have been negatively stereotyped for too long, and it is time for this to change — immigrants benefit Italy in numerous ways.

Projects to integrate immigrants have been set up across Italy, many of which involve immigrants being given various jobs in their new communities. This has not only proven to benefit the communities, but it has also helped tremendously with the integration of the new arrivals and changing overall local perception. Below are some examples of how immigrants benefit Italy.

How Do Immigrants Benefit Italy?

Firstly, the jobs that migrants accept are often those in the marginalized and lower-paid job sector — a sector that many Italians refuse to work in because of the lower wages and associated stigmas. Immigrants, though, are accused of “stealing jobs” from hardworking Italians.

But in reality, this is not the case. Migrants are merely filling the gaps, leading to Italian social advancement. If it were not for migrants, this job sector may have never been filled, thereby leaving gaps in society.

Secondly, immigrants play a crucial role in Italian development. Italy has an old population — one in ten Italians are over the age of 75. On the other hand, migrants and refugees coming to Italy tend to be young, only one in a hundred are over the age of 75.

Immigrants Boost the Economy

This means that rather than immigrants taking from Italian pensions, they work to enhance them through economic contributions. Immigrants are thought to take from society rather than give, yet more than 600,000 Italian pensions have been received thanks to immigrants.

Thirdly, because of the large population of pensioners in Italy and its large number of citizens emigrating elsewhere, holes are being left in the economy. This is where migrants come to the rescue and have filled such need to help improve the Italian economy.

This is true for many European countries with aging populations. For example, in recent years non-EU-citizens contributed around €16.5 billion ($19 billion) to the Italian economy, compared to the €12.6 billion ($14.5 billion) they received. These figures further clarify how migrants benefit Italy.

Creating an Environment for Immigrants to Thrive

Integration is key to the success of migrants in Italy. As of now, it is mostly small towns taking on the task of integrating and housing immigrants; these communities accomplish such a feat in the face of adversity and negative perceptions. As a result, they truly are paving the way for immigrant integration.

With the rate at which Italians emigrate elsewhere, small Italian towns in the south of Italy have heavily relied on immigrants to breathe life back into increasingly stagnant areas. In turn, immigrants have begun to rebuild the sense of community and home in places they were once unwelcome.

In times where immigrant lives are being threatened, it is imperative to create safe spaces and communities where immigrants can integrate without the threat of persecution. It is time for the rest of Italy to do just these measures, and reap the benefits brought about by immigration.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Google

Reuniting Immigrant Families
In the spring, the Trump Administration — via the Department for Homeland Security — enacted a “zero-tolerance” policy for any immigrants who enter the United States without proper documentation. For the past few weeks, media and news coverage focused on the events occurring at the United States and Mexico border and unearthed photographs of inhumane conditions at detention centers.

Children were being separated from their parents. The developing story focused mainly on the violations of human rights occurring at the southern border and the separation of approximately 2,700 families. This lack of reunited families urged organizations and individuals to fight to change the system; since progress has been made in reuniting immigrant families.

Stories of Progress

  1. Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services provides legal assistance to detained immigrants and minors and is based in El Paso, Texas. The organization uses a database to see if children have been, or currently are, in El Paso to start the process of reconnecting children with their families.
  2. Charlotte and Dave Willner started a fundraiser on Facebook after they saw the picture of a toddler crying as her mother was detained at the border. The couple’s goal was to raise $1,500 for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). The couple far exceeded their goal and raised $20 million from over 525,000 people. These funds will help provide legal representation for immigrant children and parents in Texas. RAICES also intends to hire more lawyers to assist with family reunification.
  3. RAICES is based in San Antonio, Texas. This organization works to provide affordable legal services to immigrant families. It is the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. In 2017, RAICES staff closed 51,000 cases at no cost to the client, and for the current work to end family separation, they have developed a toolkit to organize events in advocates’ communities.
  4. The American Civil Liberties Union has diligently worked on reuniting children with their parents through the United States justice system. The group worked to create a hard deadline on a formerly uncertain process for when children might see their parents again. Now, children under five must see their parents within 14 days of their detention, and parents and children must be in contact via phone within 10 days.
  5. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) cooperates with Catholic and community legal immigration programs to provide services. They started a project called Defending Vulnerable Populations, whose goal is to increase the number of fully accredited, qualified representatives and attorneys to represent immigrants.

Putting An End to Human Rights Violations

In addition to organizational work, the greater community has also come together to stop these human rights violations. Many groups at large focused on immigrant or legal rights have unified to provide free and low-cost services to immigrants detained at the border.

Fundraisers work to provide aid and services to immigrant communities crossing the border. As the powerful court case deemed the number of days when families must be reunited, the process and the good news of reuniting immigrant families at the southern border should significantly progress.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

PianoterraIn Italian, “pianoterra” translates to “ground floor.” Pianoterra is also an organization based in Italy that is working to keep refugee mothers and children safe.

The Mission of Pianoterra

Pianoterra was founded by Alessia Bulgari, Flaminia Trapani and Ciro Nesci. According to the group’s website, “[the founders’] stories are intertwined by personal ties: Alessia and Flaminia are cousins, Flaminia and Ciro are husband and wife.”

The organization was founded in 2008 with the main goal of helping immigrant women get the necessary things to be able to prosper in Italy. When the organization began, 58 percent of the women seeking help from the organization was Italian while the other 50 percent was foreign. Today, 98 percent are foreign women.

Pianoterra’s Past Initiatives

Pianoterra has led several initiatives to improve the lives of refugee women and children. Two of these important projects include “Right to Feed – Support of Breastfeeding” and “From Mom to Mom.”

The project “Right to Feed – Support of Breastfeeding” began in January 2009. The project was aimed at mothers who were unable to breastfeed and did not have a sufficient amount of money to be able to feed their children. Pianoterra worked to “distribute free formula milk, according to pediatric prescriptions, and other basic necessities.”

With the “From Mom to Mom” initiative, Pianoterra helped mothers by collecting and distributing second-hand items for children. By collecting second-hand articles and connecting the women who donate with the women in need, mothers are “directly linked to a solidarity network of other women and mothers willing to support,” according to the organization’s website.

The Immigration Situation in Italy

Currently, immigration to Italy is occurring in large numbers. In 2018 alone, approximately 33,000 refugees have fled to Italy. However, the nation’s new interior minister has stated that “the country will no longer be ‘Europe’s refugee camp,’” according to TeleSur.

With the new government leaders in Italy, many refugees cannot count on staying in Italy. TeleSur reports that Italy’s “right-wing League stated that the vast majority of migrants in Italy have no right to refugee status, Italy cannot help them and by accepting low pay they worsen the working conditions of Italians.”

Although the Italian government is changing, there are still organizations working to help women and refugees prosper in the country. Pianoterra will continue to assist mothers in caring for their children and bettering their futures.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

Famous RefugeesIn the wake of recent attacks on refugees, many have spoken out against the blanket statements and incorrect generalizations made about those who flee their homelands due to violence or disaster. As a further reminder that refugees are a large and diverse population that is difficult to adequately describe, this list of 15 famous refugees details people you might not know were refugees.

Meet 15 Famous Refugees

  1. Aristotle Onassis
    The famous Greek shipping magnate fled Smyrna during the Greco-Turkish War in 1922 after several of his family members were killed during the Great Fire of Smyrna.
  2. K’Naan
    The author of the hit song “Wavin’ Flag”, which became popular in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, was born in Somalia and resettled in Canada in 1991 after the outbreak of the Somali civil war.
  3. Freddie Mercury
    Freddie Mercury was born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, which is now Tanzania. He fled with his family in 1964 during the Zanzibar Revolution and resettled in the United Kingdom.
  4. Georg Ludwig and Maria von Trapp
    The Sound of Music was based on the true story of these two famous refugees. The parents of the real-life von Trapp family, Georg and Maria, fled Austria after the Anschluss, or Nazi annexation of Austria. They eventually resettled in the United States, where they moved around before finally settling in Vermont.
  5. Madeleine Albright
    The first female American Secretary of State arrived in the U.S. as a child in 1948. Her family fled the modern-day Czech Republic (which was then Czechoslovakia) after a communist takeover.
  6. Henry Kissinger
    Another famous American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger was born in Furth, Germany and fled Germany with his family in 1938 to escape persecution on the basis of their Jewish faith.
  7. Karl Marx
    As a result of his controversial political views, Karl Marx was exiled from multiple countries over the course of his lifetime. For the last 35 years of his life, he was a stateless person after being expelled from France and subsequently renouncing his Prussian citizenship.
  8. Sigmund Freud
    The famed psychoanalyst was a refugee for the last year of his life. He fled Austria as a Jewish refugee during the Anschluss in 1938, resettled in the United Kingdom, and died there in 1939.
  9. Jesus
    Jesus of Nazareth and his parents could technically be considered refugees on the basis of their having fled Israel and gone to Egypt to escape King Herod.
  10. Enrico Fermi
    The Nobel Prize-winning physicist and contributor to the Manhattan Project was a native of Italy and fled to the United States after the passage of anti-Semitic legislation by the Mussolini regime.
  11. Albert Einstein
    Perhaps one of the most famous physicists in history, Albert Einstein was a German-Jewish refugee who came to the United States in 1938 and became a professor at Princeton University.
  12. Jerry Springer
    While not technically a refugee himself, Jerry Springer was born to German refugees who had resettled in the United Kingdom.
  13. Victor Hugo
    The acclaimed French author was expelled from France multiple times and forced to flee as a result of his political views.
  14. Wyclef Jean
    The popular musician and member of The Fugees was born in Haiti and resettled in New York after fleeing the DuValier regime.
  15. Peter Carl Faberge
    Peter Carl Faberge was a renowned Russian jeweler who personally served the imperial court under Nicholas II and was known for the decorative eggs he created for the Russian imperial family and aristocracy. After the revolution in 1917, he was forced to flee to Switzerland. His surviving pieces have sold for tens of millions of dollars.

Amid all this talk of famous refugees, it is important to reiterate that refugees should not and do not have to possess any special talent or perform any extraordinary feat in order to be treated with basic human dignity. Rather, this list of famous refugees should serve as a reminder that someone’s refugee status does not define them and does not make their contributions to society any less valuable.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

Remittances to El Salvador

The Trump administration has announced an end to temporary protected status (TPS) for the 200,000 El Salvadoran refugees residing in the U.S. Immigrants have until Sept. 9, 2019, to either obtain a green card or to exit the country. Critics of the policy argue that El Salvador is unable to support an influx of citizens and point to the importance of remittances to El Salvador for the families that depend on this source of income.

 

Why Refugees Need TPS

El Salvadoran immigrants were granted temporary protected status in 2001 following two devastating earthquakes. Once enrolled in the program, immigrants have access to social security cards and a pathway to legal employment.

TPS status was originally granted to El Salvadoran refugees for only 18 months. However, previous administrations have repeatedly extended the program due to other adverse conditions like poverty and violence, as these have worsened since the earthquakes. For a country not at war, El Salvador has the highest homicide rate in the world: 108 per 100,000 people.

 

Remittances to El Salvador

El Salvadoran workers send billions of dollars annually back home to their families. These money transfers are called remittances. El Salvador has one of the highest remittance rates in the world.

In 2016, approximately 1.2 million El Salvadoran immigrants lived in the United States. They sent $4.6 billion in remittances back to El Salvador, making up 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Remittances to El Salvador have a much larger impact on the country’s economy than foreign aid. The United States sent only $88 million in aid to El Salvador in 2016.

According to Manuel Orozco, a political scientist with Washington D.C. think-tank InterAmerican Dialogue, between 80 and 85 percent of El Salvadoran immigrants send money back home. Orozco estimates that the average immigrant sends $4,300 annually. More importantly, Orozco estimates that one in 20 El Salvadoran households depend on remittance for survival.

 

How Remittances Help Those in Poverty

Remittances to El Salvador often help the poorest families access education, clothing, medicine and financial support for elderly citizens. In 2013, about 33 percent of households receiving remittance were considered poor, while about 46 percent were considered vulnerable. This suggests that remittance payments play an important role in keeping vulnerable households above the poverty line.

Remittances made up about 50 percent of monthly household income for recipients. Remittances constituted an even larger percentage of monthly household income for rural households and female- and elderly-led households.

Additionally, households receiving remittance in 2013 were more likely to have access to running water, bathrooms and electricity than the average household in El Salvador. Rates of home ownership were higher in remittance households than in the average El Salvadoran household.

In 2013, 94 percent of households receiving remittances used part of the money on consumption spending. Remittances increase domestic spending by providing poor families with a greater disposable income. Eliminating this source of revenue has the potential to hurt El Salvadoran businesses and, consequently, the El Salvadoran economy.

According to economist Cesar Villalona, “It’s a cycle. If remittances went down it would plunge people into poverty and reduce spending, which would hurt companies, causing unemployment and hitting government finances.” President Trump’s repeal of temporary protected status for El Salvadoran refugees could have devastating effects on the nation of El Salvador as a whole.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr