Diversity Creates Strength in Immigration

“It’s our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us,” President Donald Trump said during a 2016 speech on immigration. [1]

Since taking office, the Trump Administration has worked to dismantle the apparatus in place which helps refugees resettle in the United States. [2] Ideas such as “extreme vetting” and travel bans, along with a reduction to a cap of 45,000 total refugees permitted in 2018, make it likely that there will be fewer refugees entering American society than in the history of the Refugee Act of 1980. [3]

Without refugees, the U.S. suffers because it experiences a lack of diversity. Research from the Center for Migration Studies, authored by Donald Kerwin, finds that taking in refugees, instead of refusing them, is what strengthens the country domestically and abroad. [4]


  • A 2016 survey of refugees living in Colorado found that after 4 years of living in the U.S., 75% of households were “highly integrated” into society. [5]
  • Children born to refugees arriving from Bosnia, Burma, and Somalia were in similar social circumstances in the United States as native-born U.S. citizens, with refugee children “virtually indistinguishable” from children coming from citizen households. [6]
  • Within the first 10 years of living in the United States, almost 90% of refugees learn to speak English well, with the children of refugees developing a “remarkable command” over the language. [6]
  • The graduation rate in the general population of the United States reached a modern record in 2016 at 83.2%, whereas refugee children consistently graduate from high school at a rate of 80% to 90%. [6] [7]


As part of the travel ban initiated by the Trump Administration, all refugee admissions were halted for 120 days – a decision which was opposed by more than 50 of the top foreign policy and national security experts in the United States. [8]

It takes time for refugees to adjust to the new life that is offered, which means only looking at first-year settlement data skews the picture of how refugees strengthen the country.

When comparing data from refugee households who arrived in the U.S. between 1987-1996 with data from refugee households who arrived between 2007-2016, Kerwin finds three unique facts: the number of households with a mortgage doubles, the rate of naturalization triples, and college education rates double. [4]

Kerwin also found that there was a 7-point gain in labor force participation, a 10-point gain in self-employment, and an 11-point gain in overall employment. [4]

Since 1975, the U.S. has resettled over 3 million refugees, making it a global leader in that area. [9] The Reagan campaign ran with the slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again.” Sound familiar?

Then maybe the present administration should listen to these words from a 1981 speech given by President Reagan.

“More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands. No free and prosperous nation can, by itself, accommodate all those who seek a better life or flee persecution.”

“We must share this responsibility with other countries.” [10]

When we as Americans share this responsibility, we become stronger as a people. Abandoning it will only make us weak, and the data proves it.


[1] https://www.cnn.com/2016/08/31/politics/donald-trump-immigration-top-lines/index.html

[2] https://niskanencenter.org/blog/the-trump-administration-is-sabotaging-the-refugee-program/

[3] https://immigrationforum.org/article/fact-sheet-u-s-refugee-resettlement/

[4] http://cmsny.org/publications/us-refugee-resettlement-program/

[5] https://niskanencenter.org/blog/refugees-continue-to-contribute-to-america/

[6] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-la-corte/new-report-finds-refugees_b_10997766.html

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/10/27/u-s-high-school-graduation-rate-is-up-but-theres-a-warning-label-attached/?utm_term=.e5b4fab3ad98

[8] https://law.yale.edu/system/files/documents/pdf/Clinics/rolc_amicus_9.19.17_.pdf

[9] https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/about/history

[10] http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=44128



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