Companies of all sizes have joined courts, states, cities and the general public in their outrage over President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration issued last week. One of the main tenants of the order is halving the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program (USRP), which for over three decades as been one of America’s most efficient and effective programs. Contrary to what is purported by its detractors, USRP is iron tight, featuring the most intense immigration vetting process to be found anywhere.
Through the modern U.S. refugee resettlement system, less than 1 percent of refugees are resettled each year. Those who make it through the years’ long vetting process are historically productive citizens who contribute to their new communities and the U.S. economy in a positive way. In comparison to the overall U.S. population, its refugee resettlement system is not huge, but for the past three decades has been the largest in the world. In 2015, the U.S. welcomed about 77,000 refugees and the number was expanded to approx. 85,000 in 2016 [Pew].
“No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants. It’s a distinctive competitive advantage for our country — one we should not weaken.”
This quote, an excerpt from a letter sent by Jeff Bezos to all Amazon employees last week is but one example of how fervently the business world is reacting to President Trump’s executive order, which drastically reduces USRP alongside other immigration restrictions. The chorus of corporations calling for a rebuke to the executive order seemed to grow by the hour and now includes MasterCard, Ford, Alphabet, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Facebook and Microsoft. Airbnb has also issued a letter from its founders pledging that it will “contribute $4 million over the course of four years to the International Rescue Committee to support the most critical needs of displaced populations globally.”
Representatives from dozens of companies convened at Microsoft’s New York offices last week for a meeting of the TENT Foundation Partnership for Refugees, which was borne out of President Obama’s Private Sector Call to Action launched this past September at the United Nations General Assembly. As a result of the work via our RefugeeMobile project (more detail below), we are proud Sparrow is a member of the partnership, which includes dozens of businesses, Fortune 100 companies such as Unilever, Microsoft and UPS to Silicon Valley stalwarts Facebook, Airbnb and Google, as well as smaller companies such as Newton Supply and Sparrow. At a special roundtable hosted by President Obama (pictured here) at the UN General Assembly this past September, companies in attendance committed over $650 million in support for the refugee crisis.
The world has on its hands the one of the largest humanitarian crises of all time, and the largest since World War II. Nearly 70 million people have been displaced, more than half children, forced to flee their homelands. This situation isn’t going to just go away. It’s only getting worse as tens of millions of people remain stranded in temporary camps and ripple effects are felt across the world.
The U.S. has been a leader for international relief operations, welcoming refugees for resettlement through the U.S. Resettlement Program, an amazing feat of coordination between the State Department, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services. Dozens of intermediaries such as Catholic Charities and Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services, as well as hundreds of community-based organizations and many thousands of volunteers, welcome newly resettled refugees into their communities every day with open arms.
Immigrants and refugees who become American citizens are a cornerstone of the strength and innovation of the American economy. Foreign-born U.S. citizens and their children own 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Immigrants start 28 percent of all new businesses in the United States [source: White House Task Force on New Americans], adding jobs and growing the economy.
In 2012, local refugee services agencies in Cleveland spent about $4.8 million to help refugees get established. The follow-on impact those refugees had on the local economy, however, came to nearly ten times that, according to a thorough study by Chmura Economics & Analytics. Case studies from dozens of communities across the United States offer similar success stories.
At Sparrow, much of our work with refugees over the past few years as been as a result of our RefugeeMobile project. RefugeeMobile is a corporate-nonprofit-university partnership including Sparrow, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Refugee Services of Texas, and the University of Notre Dame Lab for Economic Opportunities. Backed in part by a MacArthur Foundation Discovery Grant, the program helps new refugee families in four Texas cities integrate more successfully by providing a smartphone with tailored apps and wireless service during their integration period (see Refugees Deeply interview for more information).
At Sparrow, we’ll be doing everything we can to help ease the refugee crisis. And as we grow, our customers will lead the way by growing a community of influence and empathy around mobile. As companies and communities are now testifying, it’s good for business and good for America.
(Thanks to my editors, Brian Back and Amy Tucker)