A record 100 million people around the globe were forced to flee their homes in 2022, up from 65 million in 2015. Of those displaced last year, 32.5 million were refugees who had to leave their country in fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or group membership. While the United States set its refugee admissions target at 125,000 for 2023, today’s global crises are increasing the demand upon that number. In addition to regular refugee admissions, the United States has let in nearly 180,000 Afghans and Ukrainians through humanitarian parole since 2021.
Political debates on how to handle recent refugees often focus on questions of humanitarian obligation or public safety concerns. While these are critical considerations, they fail to capture what many Americans experience as the most enduring legacy of refugees: the positive social and economic impact these newcomers have on their cities and towns.
Across the country, refugees have reshaped many communities in a fundamental way. In Fargo, North Dakota, large-scale employers like glass manufacturer Cardinal IG and rural health provider Sanford Health say they could not have successfully sustained and expanded operations in the region without the influx of refugee workers.
In Minneapolis, Somali refugees have become such an integral part of the city’s business and cultural landscape that one now represents the area in the U.S. Congress. And in Buffalo, New York, the “refugee renaissance” has been credited with reversing decades of population decline and turning neighborhoods abandoned by the exodus of factory work into areas that are now safe and lively. These are just a few examples of the very real ways in which refugees affect not just our society but also our local economy.