I was a refugee. I know Trump is wrong.Historians in the News
tags: Max Boot, immigration, refugees, Trump, Refugee Policy
Admittedly, I’m biased, having come to the United States in 1976 as a refugee myself, along with my mother and grandmother. We were helped on our journey from Moscow, via Vienna and Rome, by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, the same organization against which the alleged Pittsburgh synagogue gunman developed a homicidal antipathy. Eventually my mother became a professor at UCLA, teaching generations of students Russian (a language deemed critical to U.S. security), and I became a writer and historian whose books have appeared on many military reading lists.
I hear from a lot of Trump supporters who would like to deport me either to Russia or Israel. But even they would have to concede that, while I may be guilty of thought crimes, my family has not turned into gang bangers who prey on God-fearing, hard-working, native-born Americans. At the very least, we pay our fair share of taxes — which is probably more than Trump can say.
Other refugees have contributed much more to America — and to the world — than we have. Their ranks include Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, George Soros, Gloria Estefan, Yasiel Puig, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sergey Brin, Stephanie Murphy— and many members of the armed forces. But perhaps it’s unfair to cherry-pick anecdotes of successful refugees as the counterpoint to Trump’s anecdotes about cop killers. So let’s look at the data.
Trump’s own Department of Health and Human Services concluded that refugees brought in $63 billion more in tax revenues over the past decade than they cost. The findings were confirmed in a 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which reported that, while refugees initially have “low employment, high welfare use and low earnings,” the trend reverses after six years. By that point, “refugees work at higher rates than natives.” The study estimated that in their first 20 years in this country, refugees pay on average “$21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits.”
Trump scaremongers about crimes committed by illegal immigrants, but a study published in the journal Criminology found that “states with larger shares of undocumented immigrants tended to have lower crime rates than states with smaller shares in the years 1990 through 2014.” A study conducted by the Cato Institute found that, in Texas, immigrants, both legal and illegal, commit crime at lower rates than the native-born: “In 2015, homicide conviction rates for illegal and legal immigrants were 16 percent and 67 percent below those of natives, respectively.” Trump claims that “crime in Germany is way up” because that country admitted roughly a million, mostly Muslim, refugees. In fact, crime in Germany declined in 2017 to a 25-year low. ...
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