If Impoverished Countries Can Host Millions of Refugees, the U.S. Can Welcome a Few Thousand

The factors that drive displacement are often complex, but welcoming refugees isn’t.

If Impoverished Countries Can Host Millions of Refugees, the U.S. Can Welcome a Few Thousand

A volunteer at a Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McCallen Texas smiles at a Central American refugee and her child. (2017 / Shutterstock)

By Phyllis Bennis 

Thousands of desperate migrants, mostly from Central America, are stuck at the U.S.-Mexico border. Most are families and unaccompanied children.

Despite their legal rights to apply for asylum, U.S. officials are turning away huge numbers, claiming pandemic restrictions. But thousands of children remain, held in crowded border detention facilities while awaiting transfer to Department of Health and Human Services facilities that are full to bursting.

The situation is terrible for those children and their families. But dealing with it isn’t rocket science: The government should authorize emergency spending to expand and build new facilities and hire social workers, health care providers, and teachers to care for these kids — along with an expanded team of family reunion workers.

Here in the wealthiest country on earth, we should know how to care for influxes of desperate people. Just ask the teams who welcomed, cared for, and arranged placement for 131,000 Vietnamese refugees in the U.S. in 1975. All that’s missing now is political will.

When you look at the global picture, the situation on our border starts to look much more manageable. So let’s clear up a few things.

1. There is a massive displacement crisis all over the world.

Globally, more than 80 million people, including 34 million children, have been forced from their homes because of war, violence, economic collapse, or climate disasters. Among these, 26 million are refugees, forced out of their country. Another 4 million are seeking asylum.

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