Rural Decay is a term that has been uttered more and more recently. You can see it anytime you drive in rural Wisconsin. Stores closing, along with farms, and a migration of young people to the cities seeking work. It helped propel Donald Trump to the presidency with fear that this decay was being caused by the "other," a xenophobic view on what is a real problem. Contrary to that belief, it is the hopes and dreams of refugees and immigrants that could breathe new life into American's rural areas.
No one wants to flee their home unless there is a pressing motivation to do so. Think of what it would take for you to leave your life with only a suitcase in hand and the burden of your children's dreams on your shoulders. The mindset of a refugee is not that of conniving and evil, but of fear and hope. A great enough fear of their current situation that they flee, and the hope that where they are going, they can create a new and prosperous life.
There is a belief that when a refugee arrives in this country, they are seeking to use the state to their benefit and therefore, to the detriment of current citizens. No factual basis to supports this, and in fact, the opposite has been shown to be true. Though they are using our state entity for protections, they are not able to garner the welfare benefits that they are so often accused of abusing. There is an 8 month period where refugees are offered assistance, the majority of which is loans that must be repaid. After that, they are left to pay their way, and it has been proven that they end up paying on average $21,000 more in taxes than is ever received in benefits.
Cultural integration is also a fear that is expressed by folks who are intimidated by the thought of refugees moving into their neighborhood. You have heard stories about the terror of Sharia law being implemented in American cities, and this would be a terrifying prospect if it wasn't utter bullshit. It is more an islamophobic fear tactic used by people who have a hard time differentiating reality from Fox News. There is no law that is above that of established, secular law in the United States. The "Sharia takeover" tactic is one that is used to spread more fear of the other in small communities. This can also lead to people believing that there is no way these folks can be considered "American", forgetting that we are all immigrants or refugees in this country unless you're Native American. The same thoughts have been echoed throughout American history whether it was Irish, Black, Chinese, and now, Latin Americans. It is time to break this cycle and let the creative energy of these folks revitalize out rural areas.
Imagine that you are forced to leave your home abruptly. There is violence at your doorstep and if you don't leave now, your child will be forced into a gang, raped, or killed outright. To me, there is no option, you leave to save your family. After months of travel and 2 years of waiting to be cleared to enter, you arrive in the United States. For the first time in years you are in an environment where you do not have to worry that any day could be the day the military, gangs, or smugglers burst into your home. Many refugees, more than the average American, use it as an opportunity to start over and start a new legacy for their family. Refugees have a higher rate of business startup compared to other folks living in this country. With the introduction of this new energy, imagine the boost a small town would see. New jobs, and new economic growth would be introduced. With that new business comes tax revenue for the local municipality along with new capital expenditures in the area for building renovation and supply. Perhaps it is not new business owners that your area needs, but a fresh, young workforce. The stability of this new life would provide just that for local businesses that cannot find the labor they need.
But you cannot just base your judgement solely on the economic impact that refugee resettlement would have. An infusion of fresh ideas and community spirit would come with it as well. Entering into a new, stable life, sometimes for the first time in years, there is substantial motivation for these folks to prove that they belong and care about what happens. They bring unique experiences that can help others learn about the world around and also introduce new clothing, food, and ideas to a town that desperately needs a boost.
There is a final point that is not really a benefit, but more of an acceptance of responsibility. Many of the folks trying to come to this country are refugees of conflicts or situations that the United States has contributed to in one form or another. To turn them away, is to take away the human face that accompanies conflicts around the world. If we are to lose touch with the fact that our policies have real consequences for real people, then it will only become that much easier to invade, attack, and disrupt other countries. If we are faced with the reality of what those conflicts mean to the people that live in those places, we can began to work towards reconciliation instead of forever war.
I could point out the economic and cultural benefits until the cows come home, but in the end it is fear that keeps this from the being the positive reality that it could be. There is a drumbeat in this country right now that seeks to drown out any progress toward this goal. Understanding is needed now more than ever as the world experiences the largest migration of refugees in its history, a whopping 71 million. The best way to combat this is through knowledge, because as they say, knowledge is power. To deny fellow humans the ability to live and prosper, find happiness and community, is to deny that we have progressed at all. How we help those with the least is a reflection of who we are as a nation, and it's time to do the right thing and give hope a chance.