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celebrities who were refugeesEach year, June 20 is just another day for the average person; for many, however, it symbolizes the struggles of past and present refugees fleeing their homes for better, safer lives. World Refugee Day is a time when many reflect on how far they have come since leaving their home countries, whether they are blue-collar workers or famous names. Here are the experiences of four celebrities who were refugees before they were stars.

Four Celebrities Who Were Refugees

  1. Gloria Estefan
    World-famous singer, Gloria Estefan, was born in Havana, Cuba. She and her family fled the country in 1960, after the Cuban Revolution. After landing in Florida, Estefan’s father joined the American army and took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Estefan was granted citizenship in 1974 and joined the band Miami Sound Machine, which was the beginning of her legendary career. Currently, Estefan has seven Grammys.
  2. Mila Kunis
    Kunis, well-known for her role on That ‘70s Show and as the voice of Meg on Family Guy, was born and raised for the first seven years of her life in Ukraine. After facing years of anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union, the family was granted a religious-refugee visa and fled to the United States in 1991, settling in Los Angeles, California.

    In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kunis reflected on her experience: “It was right at the fall [of the Soviet Union]. It was very communist, and my parents wanted my brother and me to have a future, and so they just dropped everything. They came with $250.” She describes her initial experience of living in the U.S. as “like being blind and deaf at age 7” because of the extreme culture shock she faced. Kunis, like other celebrities with similar experiences, is now a staunch advocate for refugees and has criticized the Trump administration’s actions surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis.

  3. M.I.A.
    Rapper M.I.A. was born in London but moved to Sri Lanka with her family as an infant. After her father organized an independence movement for ethnic Tamils, civil war broke out and the family was forced to flee. Initially, M.I.A. and her family settled in India but eventually landed in London.

    Discussing her experiences with NME, she stated: “If you’re coming from the war zone, you definitely got an issue. You have to adapt to a new place, you have to start new schools—every kid is going to go through all the things I went through. They’re gonna be in a council flay, they have to fill out the forms, sit in the waiting rooms, get housed, wait for your voucher for your school uniform. And you had to come up with how to make luncheon vouchers look cool because you’re the only kid that’s got ‘em!”

  4. Rita Ora
    Ora was born in what was once Pristina, Yugoslavia, now known as Kosovo. Once Yugoslavia dissolved, ethnic Albanians, including 1-year-old Ora and her family, began to be persecuted by Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. The family, like those of many of the other celebrities who were refugees, fled to London, where they faced prejudice as refugees. The family was determined to have a better life, though, despite the discrimination.

    In an interview with the Evening Standard, Ora encouraged other refugees and their families to do the same, while reminding others about the toll that fleeing can take on people: “That word [refugee] carries a lot of prejudice but it also made us determined to survive. When you put anyone into an alien environment, where other people aren’t completely comfortable with them being there, they are automatically going to be defensive. It’s the rule of the jungle, right?”

At a time when open-door policies and actions regarding the refugee crisis are often controversial, these four celebrities who were refugees are challenging the stigma around being a refugee and whom it is we think of when discussing refugees.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Google Images

presidents who experienced povertyGrowing up poor can place hindrances and obstacles on the path to one’s success and achievements in life. It can hurt education opportunities, employment opportunities and recreational activities such as hobbies and skills. However, there have been American presidents who experienced poverty at some point in their lives. Despite this, each managed to climb the political ladder to the top.

Here are five American presidents who experienced poverty:

  1. Harry S. Truman – Preceded by Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was the 33rd President of the United States. His presidential term last from April 1945 through January 1953. He is well-known globally for the establishment of the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine and NATO. Although Truman had a humble upbringing, he often had a chaotic financial situation due to his poor investment choices. He also had unsuccessful business ventures such as a men’s clothing store and a mining and oil company.
  2. Ulysses S. Grant – The 18th president from 1869 to 1877. Unlike Truman, he never had the opportunity to turn around his financial situation. He eventually became bankrupt after he lost $100,000 due to the fraudulent behavior of his son’s business partner. Grant was well-known for being a national hero following the Civil War after President Abraham Lincoln made Grant a brigadier general. It was only after his death that he was able to provide finances to his family, leaving them with around half a million dollars, sourced from his Civil War memoirs.
  3. William Henry Harrison – He was a farm owner so he was quite dependent on agricultural factors for his wealth. Unfortunately, while he was serving as the Ambassador to Colombia, the harsh weather destroyed his crops. This naturally steered to his failure to accumulate much wealth. Harrison was the ninth president for 31 days in 1841 before he died of natural diseases. While he may not have had much time in office to prove his capabilities, he had military experiences that stood out.
  4. Thomas Jefferson – One of the founding fathers, he was the third president of the U.S. between 1801-1809. He was the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Additionally, he served as the second vice president from 1797 to 1801. Although he started with affluence, he accumulated a lot of debt throughout his life. He was not able to take care of his debts as he could not find buyers for his land. As a result, his daughter did not inherit much and had to live off charity.
  5. James A. Garfield – He served as the 20th president of the United States in 1881 for around six months until he was assassinated. He had served as a general during the American Civil War and attempted to fight off corruption in the post office. Garfield was born into poverty and worked many jobs such as being a carpenter or a janitor so that he can get through college. Since he was dedicated to being a public servant, he did not have much room to be able to accumulate much wealth. By the time of his assassination, he was penniless.

These American presidents who experienced poverty shed light on the fact that even the brightest or the most capable among us who can lead a nation like the United States can be living in poverty. Economic empowerment and education opportunities can be presented to all talented potentials, thus eradicating global poverty and reducing global inequality in all spheres.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Google Images

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Teddy RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt, also known as Teddy Roosevelt, is one of the most renowned presidents in United States history. He is popular due to his ruthless foreign affairs policies and his love of nature and teddy bears. Here are the top 10 interesting facts about Teddy Roosevelt and his lasting impact on the environment and poverty.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Teddy Roosevelt

  1. Conservation was one of Theodore Roosevelt’s main concerns during his presidency. The United States Forest Service (USFS) and 150 national forests were established under the 1906 American Antiquities Act. It has created the national parks enjoyed today while reducing pollution and extinction rates to native animals. During his presidency, Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land. While many consider the natural resources from the Earth to be inexhaustible, Roosevelt stated, “What will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted”. Throughout his life, Roosevelt was a popular advocate for environmental concerns and conservation.
  2. In his early years in the New York State Assembly, Roosevelt was a major proponent for the health conditions of businesses. He fought for a ban on homemade cigars after witnessing entire families suffering from prolonged exposure to raw tobacco. Although he was against government interference in business, Roosevelt fought for the health and well-being of Americans.
  3. Roosevelt made use of his power with presidential commissions to create changes, many which benefited the environmental, economic, and public health domains. For example, the Inland Waterways Commission established in 1907 to manage bodies of water and utilize them for transportation networks. While the commission had economic objectives, the plan included measures for flood control, soil reclamation and reduction of pollution, all which benefited public
  4. During his presidency, Roosevelt established the White House conference. In 1908, there was a conference focusing on conservation, and almost every governor present went on to form conservation commissions at the state level. This was a huge victory for conservation and public health in the interest of all Americans.
  5. Although Roosevelt’s foreign policy was militaristic, he was also capable of diplomacy and peacemaking. When Japan and Russia fought for control of Korea and Manchuria in 1905, Roosevelt arbitrated the conflict. In doing so, Roosevelt became the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and more importantly, mitigated conflict in Asia and the Pacific. In this way, Roosevelt’s diplomatic efforts have impacted America’s development on a global level.
  6. A popular fashion trend in the late 1800s was women’s hats to be decorated with bird feathers. To meet this need, poachers hunted species of exotic birds near to extinction. In response, Roosevelt made Pelican Island, Florida a federal bird reserve in 1903. Many other protected areas followed and the National Wildlife Refuge System was born. These initiatives help develop and preserve America’s ecosystems and reduce pollution that would otherwise contribute to poverty in some areas.
  7. In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt established the Reclamation Service, an agency that creates arable land for agriculture through the use of dams and irrigation. This service converted many dry areas into plots of land that could produce food. This service brought millions of acres of farmland into service and set precedent for success in America’s agricultural industry in years to come.
  8. Even after his presidency, Roosevelt continued to lobby for progressive policies. His strong advocacy for old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, child labor laws and women’s suffrage are the foundations for the future federal government. In fact, his distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt would go on to create policies that supported these same causes. These efforts were all aiming towards the betterment of American peoples and an effort to alleviate poverty.
  9. Roosevelt was heavily involved in the construction of the Panama Canal. He took on the project when the original French construction company failed to complete it. In a speech in Congress, Roosevelt notes that “No single great material work which remains to be undertaken on this continent is as of such consequence to the American people.” Today, the Panama Canal is an important trading route connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic. It also fosters important trade between all countries in the Americas. Furthermore, the Panama Canal secures partnerships between the U.S. and Panama.
  10. Roosevelt reformed the basis of government-business relations. Initially, there were business titans that existed en par with the federal government. However, Roosevelt believed that the government’s role is to regulate big businesses. This is to prevent their actions from affecting the general public.

These top 10 interesting facts about Teddy Roosevelt provide some insight into one of America’s well-known presidents. His strong advocacy for wildlife conservation has resulted in millions of acres of federally protected lands and countless national parks and monuments. His foreign policy and peacemaking initiatives have set a high standard for U.S. foreign affairs in mitigating conflict and alleviating poverty.

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Google Images

As the leader of the United States, each past president has had a massive responsibility to serve the people of the U.S. However, many U.S. presidents have also made foreign policy a key part of their agendas. From John Adams to Barack Obama, presidents throughout American history have shared inspirational thoughts on helping those suffering from poverty across the globe in both speeches and colloquial conversation. Listed below are some of the top quotes on global poverty from U.S. presidents.

Top Quotes on Global Poverty from US Presidents:

  1. “We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.” —Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
  2. “As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.” —Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
  3. “To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.” —John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
  4. “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” —Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States
  5. “The duty of great states is to serve and not to dominate the world.” —Harry Truman, 33rd President of the United States
  6. “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” —John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
  7. “Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side. America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected.” —George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
  8. “We know that a peaceful world cannot long exist one-third rich and two-thirds hungry.” —Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
  9. “Progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all.” —Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

All in all, these top quotes on global poverty from U.S. presidents highlight the importance of investing in foreign assistance not just from a humanitarian perspective but also as it relates to bolstering the global economy. Whether it’s John Adam’s simplistic message or George W. Bush’s illustrative parable, these wise words will hopefully inspire both U.S. citizens and future presidents to support policy and fund the world’s poor.

Sam Elster
Photo: Pixabay

tuberculosis in TajikistanIn conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development and global nonprofits, Tajikistan has made remarkable steps in countering its tuberculosis epidemic – by way of spreading awareness and the help of external nations. Reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan is truly a global effort with many working factors and components, all of which have combined to have a substantial effect on spreading awareness and countering the disease.

Like many of its Central Asian neighbors, the landlocked mountain nation of Tajikistan struggles in its fight against poverty. As of 2016, just over 30 percent of Tajiks lived below the international poverty line, just scraping by with mass imports of food and resources from Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Iran. There are many contributing factors of this widespread poverty, including rampant corruption, substantial drug trafficking and thousands of displaced persons. Despite this sweeping poverty, however, efforts have been made to improve one substantial area of Tajik life: health and wellness.

Tuberculosis in Tajikistan

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, with nearly 1.6 million people dying from the preventable disease in 2017. In the same year, there were 6,279 reported cases of tuberculosis in Tajikistan, though this value does not represent all cases of tuberculosis due to the sheer spread of disease. However, the total incidence of tuberculosis in Tajikistan has also been steadily declining since 2000.

If the proper resources are available, tuberculosis can be easily treated. According to the WHO’s report of tuberculosis in Tajikistan, out of a cohort of 5,324 members, 89 percent were successfully treated for their tuberculosis. The success of treatment drops significantly, however, when concerning those who are HIV-positive and those with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

U.S. Involvement in Tajikistan

While a significant portion of this decline in incidence and rise in success of treatment can be attributed to the Tajik people, much of the funding and interventions have been spearheaded by the United States. USAID, a U.S. government agency focused on the development of foreign nations, has been the primary arm of U.S. funding and involvement in reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan through increased resources and general awareness. Specifically, the USAID TB Control Program helped support the local Tajik governments with financial resources and infrastructure, creating a five-year National TB Program that includes training for health workers, informing at-risk populations and providing more widespread and affordable diagnosis and treatment options. This National TB Program is supported by $13.2 million in aid.

In addition to providing funding, USAID is also focused on streamlining the processes related to reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan. In this landlocked, former-Soviet nation, USAID helped reduce the treatment time for tuberculosis from 24 months to nine months. While this is still a significant amount of time, this improved treatment theoretically allows for those who have been properly diagnosed with tuberculosis to return to work, happy, healthy and hopefully ready to contribute to Tajikistan’s dwindling economy.

Next Steps

While Tajikistan has taken the first, crucial and often most difficult steps in tuberculosis prevention and treatment, the country still has a long road ahead. Continuing to educate populations and streamline treatment and diagnoses must spread to other populations, including migrants (of which, Tajikistan has a significant population), prisoners and children, in order for Tajikistan to have a far brighter future.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Thomas JeffersonWho was Thomas Jefferson? Most people would answer that he is the author of the Declaration of Independence, a former president or a founding father. All of these answers would be correct, however, there are more interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson that many people are unaware of. Aside from earning an array of political titles, Jefferson did work trying to improve poverty, education and diplomacy both in and outside of the United States of America, yet these actions are frequently unheard of. It’s time to unearth Jefferson’s efforts in these areas by taking a look at the top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Thomas Jefferson

  1. He served as a U.S. Minister to France. Jefferson had a vast appreciation for the French culture. He was enamored with its cuisine, art and architecture. However, he also developed a distaste for France’s aristocracy and was dissatisfied with the state of poverty in France. Jefferson was disheartened with the mass amounts of poverty in France and is quoted saying, “I find the general fate of humanity here, most deplorable.”
  2. Jefferson supported poorhouses. Poorhouses were institutions that tended to members of the lower class. Jefferson strongly believed that poorhouses were underfunded and had failed in achieving their mission. Throughout his political career, Jefferson endorsed and sought to reform poorhouses.
  3. He wanted all children to have access to education. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson states that all children should learn some sort of “some art, trade or business”, but first, they should attend public school for a minimum of three years. He wished to ensure education for all children, specifically those who could not afford it, even if it came at public expense.
  4. Jefferson wrote his personal views on poverty into the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson spent much of his political career trying to save ordinary citizens from oppressive aristocrats. Jefferson touches on his personal views in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote that all men are born with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In Jefferson’s eyes, all men were born equal.
  5. He believed in self-reliance. Jefferson believed the government should assume responsibility for the poor, but he also wished to go beyond this. Jefferson wanted to make the poor self-reliant so they could prosper. Many of his poverty proposals were geared towards urgent needs and were meant to be used as a temporary solution until a person could get back on their feet.
  6. Jefferson believed in health care. Jefferson believed in the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Jefferson thought that “without health, there is no happiness.” Throughout his life, Jefferson made numerous attempts to improve health care. While he was in Paris, Jefferson worked alongside health care reformers to try to revise the French health care system. He carried his passion for health back with him to the United States and fought to reduce disparities in health amongst Americans.
  7. He supported the French Revolution. From one revolution to another, Thomas Jefferson believed that all people should have liberty, and he was a vigorous advocate of the French Revolution. During the revolution, Jefferson allowed Marquis de Lafayette and his fellow rebels to host meetings in his private residence. He also assisted Lafayette in drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
  8. Jefferson wanted slaves to receive an education. In a letter that Jefferson wrote to Robert Pleasants, he advocated that Virginia’s educational system should provide education for slaves to prepare them for freedom. Jefferson pushed Peasants to introduce this legislation. Jefferson saw education as a means of empowering the powerless to empower themselves.
  9. Jefferson was a diplomat. Jefferson made numerous contributions to U.S. foreign policy. While the Minister in France, he negotiated a highly successful commercial treaty with Prussia. As President, he solved longstanding quarrels with France over navigation rights in the Mississippi River when he purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte.
  10. He was George Washington’s Secretary of State. Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State. He was appointed in 1790 and served until 1793. During his time as Secretary of State, Jefferson successfully enacted a policy of neutrality in the war between England and France.

These top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson illustrate how even more than 200 years ago, founding fathers were working to address issues that the world still faces today. As for Jefferson, if being the author of the Declaration of Independence and President of the United States wasn’t already enough, these top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson reveal his efforts to improve poverty, education and hostile foreign relations.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Aid to the Palestinians
A school abandoned and torn down. A sewage system shut off and covered in asphalt. These are just two of the projects that the U.S. is in the process of shutting down as it cuts almost all foreign aid to the Palestinians. Previously, the U.S. was a top donor to the Palestinians, giving $5 billion since 1993. However, the government announced an intention to cut off aid last year, 2018, in order to put pressure on Palestinian leaders to accept the administration’s peace plan, which it is set to announce after Ramadan ends in early June. USAID has laid off all but 14 of its employees in the Palestinian territories, an 85 percent reduction in staff. Aid that funded anti-terrorism programs has also been cut.

Concerns Over Aid Cuts

Many people in the Israeli government supported these aid programs, both for humanitarian reasons and for the benefits they provided to Israeli national security. Dana Stroul, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Daniel Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, wrote in an article for NPR that “Israeli authorities understood that a breakdown in security, an economic collapse or a humanitarian crisis in the West Bank would place an enormous burden on Israel…The Israeli national security establishment remains painfully aware that it will face the burden – financial, security, and otherwise – of addressing a full-scale collapse in the West Bank or Gaza if the U.S. steps away or loses all influence and credibility with the Palestinians.”

The Israeli government opposes cutting aid, calling on the U.S. government to amend the law that resulted in the cuts. One Israeli security official said that “[i]f the law doesn’t change and no solution is found…[t]his will harm a top priority Israeli national security interest.”

Others Provide Aid

In the U.S.’s absence, others have stepped up. A week ago, the European Union announced that it would be giving an additional 22 million euro ($24.6 million) in aid to the Palestinians. The new aid package will focus on health care, food security and safety for vulnerable families.

In addition, the government of Qatar pledged to give $480 million in aid to the Palestinians. While the U.S. and Qatar have allied historically, these countries have had a strained relationship recently, with Qatar defying U.S. sanctions to provide aid to Turkey. The Qatari government has frequently come under fire for human rights abuses.

The good news is that there are ways to restore these programs. In addition to following the Israeli government’s recommendation to amend the law cutting aid, Stroul and Shapiro have several more solutions. The U.S. could specifically allocate money to complete currently unfinished aid projects, such as the school and sewage system mentioned above. Congress could also pass current bills aiming to improve aid to the Palestinians. One of these is the Palestinian Partnership Fund Act, which aims to connect Palestinian entrepreneurs with potential business partners in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Moreover, the U.S. is considering renewing aid. Last month, six senators proposed a bill to restore aid to the Palestinians. “[R]efusal to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people is a strategic mistake,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of the bill’s sponsors. “Denying funding for clean water, health care and schools in the West Bank and Gaza won’t make us safer. Instead it only emboldens extremist groups like Hamas and pushes peace further out of reach.”

– Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About JFKIt has been over 50 years since the tragic day of former president John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Regarded as one of the greatest and most influential presidents of the United States, JFK led an astounding life. He was successful both socially and politically. He has done much for the country and most of his policies are still implemented in modern U.S. society. These are the top 10 facts about JFK.

Top 10 Facts About JFK

  1. Before his time as president, John F. Kennedy served in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant and commander of a patrol torpedo boat, the PT-109. He eventually received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his astounding service during WWII.
  2. JFK served in the House of Representatives shortly after his service in the Navy for six years and would be elected to be a part of the U.S. Senate in 1952 for the state of Massachusetts.
  3. JFK was a strong advocate for foreign policy during his time in the House of Representatives, supporting the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. He also supported various other Cold War policies. This further shaped his political career, both as he ran for the presidency and during his time as president.
  4. As a senator, JFK approved President Eisenhower’s reciprocal-trade powers which give the president the power to have reciprocal trade agreements with foreign countries. He had also supported the St. Lawrence Seaway which would allow for more trade routes between Canada and the United States.
  5. JFK wrote the book Profiles in Courage (1956). It won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957, demonstrating his talent as an author.
  6. He also founded the Peace Corps in 1961, which is an agency providing social and economic assistance to countries in need. This agency is a volunteer-based program.
  7. JFK suffered from Addison disease, in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient hormones for the human body causing fatigue, darkening of skin and dizziness.
  8. JFK strongly advocated for foreign aid to nations in Africa and Asia while in the Senate during the 1950s.
  9. In 1961, Kennedy visited West Berlin to protest with citizens again Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to sign a peace treaty with East Germany, which would threaten U.S. relations with Berlin during the Cold War.
  10. JFK established the Alliance for Progress in 1961, which sought to establish economic cooperation and improve social relations between Latin America and the U.S.

These are the top 10 facts about JFK. From his service during WWII to his service as president, he has greatly impacted this world, socially and politically.

Elijah Jackson
Photo: Mary Ferrell Foundation

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

Calling CongressThe First Amendment gives Americans a handful of freedoms, one of the most important being the freedom of speech. But, with freedom of speech comes a more nuanced and focused right- the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In simpler terms, this grants Americans the right to make a complaint to or seek help from their government without fear of repercussion. People often wonder whether calling Congress makes a difference. It has been shown that there is a difference between emailing and calling your representative. It is helpful to understand why it is so important to call Congress.

Why It Is So Important To Call Congress

For starters, calls speak much louder than emails do. It is much more personable to place a phone call as the person must take the time and effort in their busy day to do so. Furthermore, one is more likely to get a response that is not automated, so the call will not get lost in the masses as an email could.

When constituents call their Senators and urge them to co-sponsor a bill or vote in favor of a specific proposal, that request gets tallied. When there are enough tallies to get the attention of the Senator, it is not uncommon for them to vote in the way their constituents had pleaded. If the call is in favor of a more intense partisan issue, there may be a lower success rate for the constituents, but still, their voice is heard and their request is noted.

If enough people call about a similar issue, that has the power to halt the office and bring that issue to the top of an agenda. Demands in such high volumes are impossible to ignore and force a Senator to address them. The power to change the agenda in a congressional office is among the many reasons why it is so important to call Congress.

The Problem with Calling Congress

There is, of course, one major flaw in this system. While there is no cap on the number of emails that can be received at any given time, the same can not be said about phone calls. Even if a congressional staff fielded calls for an entire business day with no breaks and with all-hands-on-deck, they could still only take around 4,000 calls. Because there are so many more constituents than available phone lines, many people can get sent to voicemail. These voicemails are, however, listened to, and if a request for a vote is made over the line, the extra effort and desire to be heard is noted by the staffers and their plea still goes towards the tallies.

With so much on the plates of the leaders in Washington, it can become challenging to remain personable and in touch with the individual needs and desires of constituents. When people call their leaders, it bridges the them-and-us gap. It allows for congressmen and women to connect with their constituents and hear their stories; in turn, it allows them to better advocate for and represent these people and empathize with their concerns. Sharing a personal story and emotionally moving the staffer can have a huge impact, even if it is just one person.

Placing a phone call is somewhat of a lost art, but it still holds so much power. It is a form of communication that simply cannot be ignored, and thus, is far more likely to hold ground and achieve the desired result. While, yes, it is easy to send an email, it takes bravery and effort to place a phone call and explain to the people representing you how it is you would like to be represented. This is the power of a phone call, and it explains why it is so important to call Congress.

Charlotte M. Kriftcher

Photo: Flickr