Here's What It's Like To Be a Refugee

Refugees' full energies are devoted to earning money and absent family members overseas.


Every month in Louisville, Kentucky, Abdi Mohamed does a little bit of family banking.

The 32-year-old Somali man with dark, deep-set eyes and a cleanly trimmed goatee opens an app called Wave. Foremost in his mind are his wife, his 6-year-old stepdaughter, and his 3-year-old daughter. He tries to figure out how much money they need: Did they run out of toiletries? Any hospital visits? Have the girls grown out of their clothes? After running through his mental checklist, Mohamed determines a number, navigates the app, and taps his finger on the screen to send his family what they will need this month. The money withdraws from his bank account in Louisville. Eight thousand miles away in Nairobi, Kenya, Mohamed's wife Sophia gets a notification on her phone that the money has arrived from America.

"I send $500 to $600 per month to my family," says Mohamed, who earns $12.50 an hour working in an Amazon warehouse. "But sometimes there are medical bills; it fluctuates. So [I] may end up sending $500, $600, $700, and by the end of the month, [I] keep on sending other money. Sometimes it goes beyond $1,000." At these figures, he gives a helpless laugh.

Mohamed was 6 years old when he left Somalia, an arrow-shaped country capping the horn of Africa that has been hounded by civil war since a coup in 1991. His family fled across the border to Kenya and found tenuous safety in the refugee camp of Dadaab, and it was there that he grew up. After an unhappy first marriage, Mohamed applied for the United States Refugee Admissions Program, a yearslong process with the potential to result in resettlement to America. Then his plans went awry: He met Sophia, who had a daughter from her own previous unhappy marriage. She was beautiful, patient, and fastidious. The two fell in love and wed, and soon had a daughter of their own.

"Marriage and death are things that always come as a surprise," Mohamed says. "Sometimes things happen the way you don't plan it."

Since Sophia and the girls weren't a part of Mohamed's initial application, he was not able to add them to his case. In 2013, when he was approved for resettlement to the United States, he had to go alone. Now he's in the process of applying to bring them to join him in Kentucky. He works 60-hour weeks and sends them money to live on. Mohamed is keenly aware of the difference between himself and the other workers at his warehouse: They end long shifts and go home to their families, while his wife and daughters are an ocean away.

Mohamed is a legally "single" man who is simultaneously bound to support three dependents. His immigration attorney at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Sarah Mills, calls his financial situation "maintaining two households," a phrase usually reserved for wealthy owners of multiple homes. Mills has been working with Mohamed since June 2014 to file a refugee family reunification petition, a legal channel through which refugees in their first two years in the United States can bring their immediate families to join them. But until his petition succeeds, Mohamed lives in a kind of limbo, his feet on Kentucky ground but his heart with his family in Kenya.

Thousands of such fragmented families exist. Just as most American families would not disunite intentionally, these refugee families never meant to get permanently separated. Under normal circumstances—their countries intact and safe, facing no persecution—they would function as single households living under the same roof.

Instead, many refugees' full energies are devoted to absent family members overseas. The cost of this separation, both to people like Mohamed and to the American communities they live in, demands closer investigation. So do the costly inefficiencies in the family reunification system.

'IF I MISS ONE DAY OF WORK, THEY WOULD SUFFER' Money is on the minds of most new refugees in the United States. The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program aims for them to be financially self-sufficient within 90 days of arriving in the country. New arrivals learn that they must put aside any notions of full-time English classes in favor of finding a first job, and fast.

They are often blindsided by the cost of living in America. "There are so many bills: water, house, electricity," says Elhadi Adam, a Sudanese refugee who fled Sudan's ethnic cleansing campaign and resettled in Maryland in 2012. But even with these costs, Adam's life in America was still better than that of his family in a displacement camp in Sudan. "You have comfort here. Your family is there, and they don't have anything to eat. Here you have something to eat. So why save money? If you work two jobs and are a hard worker, you can pay your rent, and after that you can wire what's left to your family. So there is no sleep—if I miss one day of work, they would suffer." In the five years Adam was separated from his wife and their young son and daughter—they were reunited in 2015—he estimates that he sent them around $10,000 for living expenses.

According to the World Bank, immigrants living in the United States send more money abroad than immigrants in any other country, remitting approximately $56.3 billion in 2014. Refugees make up a tiny fraction of immigration to the United States, and there is no reliable way to track refugee-specific remittances, but globally, they are among the poorest and most disenfranchised groups on the planet. I spoke with dozens of fractured refugee families; the need to send money home proved persistent and all-consuming.

The form for a refugee to bring a spouse or child to the United States is only four pages, but submitted applications can run hundreds of pages long. Legal professionals like Mills become a necessity, because a key part of the application requires refugees to prove their relationships with the people they want to bring.

Immigration lawyers will often try to show financial dependency to demonstrate that a marriage is real. They collect receipts from money transfers, screenshots from money-wiring apps like Wave, and even affidavits from black-market wire transfers, all proving that their stateside client sends money to a spouse or child overseas. The mountains of evidence make legal professionals key witnesses to this flow of cash.

Attorney Heather Scavone, who runs the Elon Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic in Greensboro, North Carolina, believes there is a strong economic argument for refugee families to be reunited as quickly as possible. "When you have a refugee making $8.50 an hour and their family is in the [Democratic Republic of Congo]," she says. "they're sending a substantial portion of their wages overseas to take care of their family." Instead of investing their paychecks in their new American communities, they send them to camps and slums in foreign countries. Instead of investing in their own life in the United States—purchasing homes, buying cars, frequenting American businesses—they are desperately scraping together every extra cent of their earnings to sustain a second household abroad.

'PENDING, PENDING, PENDING, PENDING' Moges Betru has spent three and a half years waiting for his wife, Sadada. He is an intense, slight man from Ethiopia who fell in love with Sadada via old-fashioned correspondence. His landlord was her uncle, and over the course of several years they started to spend more and more time chatting on the phone. "Whenever she called [her uncle], she talked to me, so we started to get to know each other and exchanging Facebook [messages] and letters. Later on, we started talking, and decided to marry each other." They wed in 2012.

Betru, like many refugees, did not want to jeopardize the resettlement process he started in 2010 by belatedly adding Sadada to his case. So he came alone to Greensboro in September 2013. Right away he began the process of applying for Sadada to join him, and he sought help from Church World Service.

His first petition was denied for reasons he doesn't know. In 2015, he moved to Louisville, and there he received help applying again, this time from Kentucky Refugee Ministries. Then the waiting began in earnest. As of February 2017, Betru had four words to say: "Pending, pending, pending, pending."

Refugee family reunification petitions such as Betru's start at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), either in Texas or Nebraska, where an adjudicator reads the paper petition and determines whether someone in Betru's position has given enough evidence that his wife is really his wife. Petitions at USCIS "are generally approved pretty quickly," writes Rebecca Sim, attorney at Catholic Charities of Louisville. The USCIS office then sends the file to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which then sends it on to the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to the family member abroad.

That is an ideal case. "More often than I am sure the government would like to admit, the file is lost in transit from USCIS to the NVC," Sim explains. "If the file is lucky enough to arrive at the NVC, it could become lost in transit from the NVC to the assigned U.S. embassy or overseas USCIS office. Lost files can result in extremely long delays."

Betru's lawyer in Louisville, Becca O'Neill, sent his application to the USCIS, but it never made its way onto the desk of an adjudicating officer. When O'Neill contacted USCIS, seven months after sending in Betru's petition, the office said it was never received. Betru was exasperated: "It took us like six months to appeal."

Photo courtesy Abdi Mohamed

This time, Betru's application was approved, but another human error followed. The National Visa Center sent his file to the American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and asked Sadada to come in for an interview. This would have been the correct next step if Sadada lived in Ethiopia, but she lived and worked in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. The mishap cost months; to reroute a file between embassies, even those only a four-hour plane ride apart, the file had to first go to the United States, then be sent out again to Dubai.

And these are minor gaffes compared to the bureaucratic satire that can play out once these petitions reach the State Department's embassies and consulates. A combination of local mood and institutionalized bureaucracy can drag out the application process for years.

Aside from a not-quite-consummated pilot program that attempted to streamline the family reunification process, most embassies or consulates complete their own adjudication on the petition USCIS has already adjudicated and approved. Consular staff might ask for additional proof of a real family relationship. This puts petitioners, or rather their lawyers, in a back-and-forth not with a USCIS office in Nebraska but with a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

Andrew Haile, a lawyer who published "The Scandal of Refugee Family Reunification" in the Boston College Law Journal in 2015, described files at an embassy as being in a "black hole." In my interviews across the board, immigration lawyers bemoaned this stage of the process. Embassies and consulates can vary widely in their communicativeness and efficiency when it comes to these visas, and refugee petitioners and their lawyers might go months without hearing from consular staff. Sim recalls an embassy where a file was "just placed to the side and forgotten," adding a year to the family's estrangement.

"It is like elastic," says Congolese refugee David Zihalirwa, who petitioned in 2015 for his wife and 1-year-old daughter to join him. "They say two months, then it becomes three months."

In November 2015, Moges Betru's wife Sadada finally completed her interview. Six months later, neither of them had heard any news. Now, in 2017, he says that he would never advise another person to go through this process. It's "killing you slowly," he says. "It doesn't kill you quickly. They tell you, 'Don't worry. You'll go, maybe soon.'" Sadada has still not been cleared to join Betru, and he is close to giving up.

EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND DELAYS Fixing that bureaucratic stagnation may become a moot point if refugee family reunification continues to get wrapped up into executive orders on immigration. President Donald Trump's January 27 temporary ban on arrivals included people holding V93s, the visa for refugee family reunification. The March 6 clarification lets those already holding this visa enter the country, but still delays or stymies family waiting in the USCIS or embassy stage of the reunification process.

Lags such as these can be costly. Each refugee coming to the United States, including those joining family members, must pass certain timed hurdles before boarding a plane to the United States. Medical examinations must happen within 90 days of departure, security clearances must be recent (clearance timing varies by country of origin), and the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration must coordinate with the International Organization of Migration for plane tickets and itineraries.

This process can run like a well-oiled machine, but executive interference has rippling effects. Missing a medical clearance means waiting for another one, during which time the security clearance will likely lapse—and by the time the plane tickets are finally rebooked, the medical clearance may well lapse again. This cycle of lapsing can add up, both for the taxpayers and the family member waiting in the United States.

Immediate family members of refugees are considered "derivative" refugees, and fall under the refugee category of immigrant arrivals, whether or not they themselves qualify for refugee status. They therefore are among those who would be denied entry to the United States for 120 days under the March 6 executive order. It is unclear whether this order will ever go into effect, but if it does, Mohamed and Betru can expect a much longer wait for their wives.

BUDGET LIMBO The bulk of money that refugees send their immediate kin abroad goes to basic living expenses for family members in poverty. Money for food and rent top the list, followed by medical bills. In Chad, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported a 96 percent funding gap in 2016, "mainly in the domains" of food and firewood for refugee camps. Media fads can skew funding toward newer and trendier crises, such as the one in Syria. But even Syrian refugees in the same year were barely better off, with only 12 percent of their basic needs met.

Two families I spoke with reported children who died in camps of disease or malnutrition while they waited out the process of reunification. One man confided that his wife back in the camp had begun trading sex for food to feed their children.

A certain percentage of this money only makes it as far as the channels that carry it. Many Darfurian refugees reference a Sudanese man in Connecticut who informally transferred money to both Chad and Sudan. He apparently took a $5 fee for every $100 sent abroad, half the cost of legal wiring channels. Western Union's website estimates a fee of $12 for every $100 sent to Chad, and The Economist documented in 2014 that remittances sent to the African continent usually incur a 12 percent fee.

Travel, too, gets expensive. When it comes time to go to the "nearest" consulate or embassy for the final stage of a family member's processing, costs can skyrocket.

Bakit Adam, a Sudanese refugee resettled in Louisville, was baffled when he learned that his family had to make their way over 1,500 miles from the Gaga refugee camp in eastern Chad to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, to continue their processing. The first $700 got his wife Fatima and their five children to the border, then the money ran out. Fatima recalls, "We called Bakit, and then he sent money. And then we finished the money, and then we called him. One time, two times, three times."

That was just to get the family to Yaoundé. Another $500 went to renting a house there. "Every 10 days, I was sending them $400 to $500 while they were in Cameroon. I didn't even go to school. I had to work every single day. No sleep!" His family waited in Yaoundé for seven months as the American Embassy processed their visas.

Apart from the expected bribes to border guards and policemen, some refugees must pay smugglers' fees to exit their native country or to help their family member cross a dangerous border. When host countries' police are hostile to refugees, bail money for jail stints can get rolled into the budget.

Additional costs come with proving a relationship to the embassy and consular staff. If the embassy or consulate decides to ask for DNA evidence to prove that a child is related to her parents, this can be expensive, especially for large families. Jacqueline Kasongo, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Lexington, paid $1,600 to complete DNA testing to reunite with her five children. It took six months to scrape together the money, but it proved that the children were hers and enabled her to move to the next step in the process.

WAITING FOR A BREADWINNER Many refugees in the United States find themselves in the reverse situation. Rather than having to earn extra money to support someone abroad, they are insolvent precisely because their families are incomplete.

"We get a lot of single moms who have spouses abroad," says attorney Emily Jones, Mills' colleague in Lexington. "It's hard enough to be fluent in English and be a single mom in the U.S., much less be here without the language capabilities or skills from the get-go. And to expect them to be self-sufficient in 90 days…is kind of an impossible task. So if we don't let them bring their husbands, we're setting them up to be dependent instead of self-sufficient."

Two such women I interviewed in October 2016 in Louisville, Maryama Omar and Endo Dega Muhumed, were disabled and unable to work. They were waiting for their husbands to arrive and bring income into the household. Omar was reunited with her husband at the end of 2016, but Muhumed, a Somali refugee with two children, still wonders when her husband will be allowed to join her.

Even for an able-bodied person, it can be stressful to be a single parent at the low-wage jobs open to people who are still learning English. Layla Makki, a Sudanese refugee, worries that her health may deteriorate due to her single-parent status. She imagines that if her husband were here, "I could just take some days off and rest. But I have to work. I have to work every day."

ASSIMILATING ALONE With so much energy spent worrying about family members abroad, what chance do refugees in America have to become productive, contributing members of their new communities?

On one hand, this is a simple issue of time. If a man such as Abdi Mohamed spends 60 hours a week working at his packing job, dead set on sending every extra cent he has to his wife and girls in Nairobi, and if he spends every additional hour possible taking ad hoc interpreting jobs, this leaves him without much time for anything else. Mohamed has strong English but plenty of refugees, such as Bakit Adam, do not. And while English classes are often free, refugees who spend all their time working cannot attend them.

The second barrier between Mohamed and his new American community is less tangible. Scavone, the Elon attorney, describes it as a palpable difference fragmented families in the United States feel between themselves and the people around them, "because every night you go to bed and your children are in harm's way." She cites this as a major barrier to integration.

The resettlement program intends for economic self-sufficiency to integrate refugees into their new communities. But economic self-sufficiency isn't enough when an immigrant's eyes are glued to places and people across the sea. "Keeping them from their immediate relatives makes it really hard to integrate or to feel like this is their home, their country that they need to be invested in," Jones says. "Because they're torn between two places."

When Abdi Mohamed speaks, he bangs his fist on the table for emphasis. "I haven't seen my kids in three years." Bang. "The waiting is the most stressful part." Bang.

Sometimes he toys with the idea of buying a plane ticket to see Sophia and the girls. He has the price of a travel document for refugees memorized: $240. He knows the plane ticket would cost a little over $1,000. He envisions getting his hands on this kind of money: credit cards, taking out loans, going into debt. The possibility is seductive.

"But if I were to go now, and give a child to my wife…" He drifts off, knowing the consequences of having another baby, a child who was not originally a part of his case. "The process starts over. Another three years." The risk is too high. So he goes to his 10-and-a-half-hour night shift, and puts in the work for his paycheck. Then he sends what he can to his wife.

NEXT: Israel Decriminalizes Pot Possession

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  1. This post has almost convinced me that we should stop punishing these people by letting them into the country.

    1. I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

      This is what I do... http://www.webcash10.com

  2. Wow, what a story!

    Here's what its like to be an American.
    I have to work to make money for my family. I have bills. If I miss one day of work, I suffer money loss too.
    I also have to constantly see and hear about how non-Americans deserve to be here in the USA. I also have to constantly see politicians let in people who hate America, what we stand for, or are just let in because they will not defend themselves. I also have to see demographics change so these people vote for a bigger and bigger Nanny-State.

    Numerous sides of my family fought in the Revolutionary War against the English and some were born in England themselves. Some sides of my family fought alongside whites as some Indian Nations fought for the British and some for Americans. They fought to try their hands at a Republic Democracy with free trade and unprecedented freedoms. Later sides of my family came from various nations through Ellis Island. They were very thankful to be allowed in.

    Life can be tough. America seems to make life a bit easier. People clearly want to come here and we should allow people who will probably be an asset to this country to live here.

    The refugee sob stories are getting old.

    1. Calling them "sob stories" is all we need to know about your alleged "love" of the Constitution and the principles contained therein.

      1. "We"?

  3. I learned everything I need to know about refugees from Tom Petty.

  4. Refugee- Someone who is given full welfare benefits the day they arrive in the USA and who are assisted by so-called charities who are paid for every refugee they handle. Handle meaning to sign them up for welfare benefits

    Strange that the article does not mention any of that

    1. Maybe the author figured that Reason's remaining bigots would fill in the gaps with their own crackpot confessions.

      1. What crackpot confessions, are you denying that refugees are not only eligible for but receive the full range of taxpayer supplied benefits?

        So why didn't a report concerning the money that refugees include the taxpayer money too.

        In one case so a guy can send money to Dubai where his family is. Which raises the question why doesn't the guy move to Dubai.

        And you claim that it bigoted to want to know where taxpayer money goes?

  5. What the hell was the point of this article?

    1. To push for open borders since the libertarian movement can't really deliver anything else to the billionaire who shoveled money into the movement.

      1. Re: Sam Hayson,

        "Open Borders" has been misconstrued by Trumpistas (i.e. right-wing socialiats) to include the importation of refugees by the State. We free market advocates promote the benefits of bordets open to trade, to exchange and to the free movement of capital and labor. Trumpistas lie when they claim that open borders means allowing the whole world to come over. But the "whole world" is not thinking of coming over to the US. It is, instead, the Market who INVITES people to come over. Businesses, renters, sellers, brides and grooms, family - all them invite immigrants over. Most people are affraid of uprooting themselves to move to a country they don't know. This simple yet powerful fact contradicts the claims by Trumpistas and the knuckle-dragging xenophobes.

        But I don't promote the importation of refugees by the State. I support IMMIGRATION, the VOLUNTARY action.

        1. We free market advocates promote the benefits of borders open to trade, to exchange and to the free movement of capital and labor.

          I'm all for open trade and the free movement of capital and labor provided I don't have to subsidize the capital and labor when it arrives in the country. And that's exactly what I have to do now.

          In different words, until the US adopts a lot more libertarian social policies, it is foolish to adopt libertarian immigration policies.

      2. The LP caused La Suprema Corte to decide Roe v. Wade in favor of individual rights with one (01) electoral vote. This, of course, was when we had a manly pro-choice platform that went on to help Canada repeal ALL prohibition laws there. Over half of These States have now gotten rid of cops shooting kids in the back over herbs. That too is as direct a result of libertarian votes as the 18th Amendment was the result of the Prohibition Party averaging 1.4% of the vote year after year, with Rockefeller donations. The LP delivers freedom to your doorstep, and all you gotta do to have it is get of your ass and vote.

        1. Poor Hanky is like Brad Pitt's Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys proudly proclaiming "WE DID IT", completely unawares that the "it" everybody else is referring to had nothing to do with him.

    2. "What the hell was the point of this article?"


      Reason Mag is bleeding.
      Libertarianism ain't cutting it anymore.

      1. Whereas loofa-faced fascism is?

      2. Because that's exactly what this nation needs, more emotional legislation! It's for the childreeeeeen!

        Go die in a fire slavers...

  6. No nation can support both unlimited immigration and a welfare state. Anyone who credibly thinks otherwise should make their case.

    If Reason devoted remotely equal energies towards undoing the every expanding entitlement state as they do towards opening the border I'd understand and might even be supportive.

    But what they advocate is not merely senseless, but instead will prove ultimately destructive of liberty.

    Reason has forsaken libertarianism for kinder gentler statism.

    1. Re: ThomasD,

      No nation can support both unlimited immigration and a welfare state.

      The market makes immigration finite.

      Try again, you economic ignoramus.

      1. Pretty perverse logic that claims that the welfare state is the market. Then again you are quite the collectivist when it comes to IP as well...

      2. A welfare state is not a market and therefore not self-limiting.

        Try again, you economic ignoramus.

        Hard to imagine with geniuses like you why your country is a failed socialist narco-state.

      3. The market makes immigration finite.

        Sure. In the case of a welfare state, the market makes unrestrained immigration finite by bankrupting the state. I prefer for the US government not to go bankrupt.

      4. "The market makes immigration finite."


        The 'market' makes people stop moving?

        Wait--you mean when the desired location is so overwhelmed by immigrants that any attraction or benefit is destroyed.

        Yes, that's true.

    2. DemoGOP exportation of prohibition laws is the primary cause of financial collapse and refugees fleeing death camps. The UN, Sharia Law and Vatican are the problem, not American freedom.

    3. That's exactly what the Glibs said! Then they pleaded, wept, threatened, and finally left.

      1. Yeah, run even more commenters outta here! That'll help Reason out. This site will be a true bastion of libertarianism when the only commenters are Buttplug, Mike Hihn, OldMexican, and the other random assortment of trolls!

  7. Way to play to your audience, guys.

    Well, at least it wasn't Dalmia ...

    1. What's truly sad is that most of the remaining "libertarians" here are bigots and simpletons.

  8. I clearly remember when US servicemen advanced into godless Canada... to escape being enslaved as murderers for the Kleptocracy. A Reason article on when Nixon was elected dictator and Americans fled as refugees would go a long way toward drumming up support for others likewise fleeing conservative religious fanaticism.

    1. Welfare is a human right. Medicare for all!

  9. Koch open borders propaganda

  10. Sounds rough.

    Not entirely sure why it's the US's job to deal with it.

  11. Refugees' full energies are devoted to earning money and absent family members overseas.

    Wow. All of them? Every single one? That's literally all they do? I mean, they don't even spare a few minutes to go see a movie or go out for a hamburger every now and then? Well, that's impressive. It is a good thing we have publicly funded programs to attract such Ubermenschen into the country. I am surprised our Russian adversaries have not poached off the supply of these heroic, selfless superhumans so they can keep them all for themselves and undermine our great democracy.

    1. Shorter hello: I'm an angry, xenophobic bigot.

  12. Lets require those who are all about refugees to sponsor one. Put your money where you mouth is. "I am so noble from the comfort of my keyboard I am saying the rest of you should pay for my sentiments."

  13. In my experience, the complaints about refugees being supported by welfare is a bait-and-switch tactic. The real position is that those opposed to refugees don't want them here *at all*, even if they were entirely supported by private funds, because they are strange and Muslim and "have incompatible cultural values" and, generally, "not American". But that is harder to defend because it is tinged with a lot more bigotry than they are willing to admit openly. So they resort to the financial argument, which is superficially divorced from questions of culture or religion. We know this because the arguments are always about getting rid of the welfare state as a precondition for letting any refugees in. I have yet to hear of any refugee skeptic propose that they would be okay with refugees as long as no taxpayer dollars were spent; no, instead, it's this nearly-impossible demand of getting rid of the welfare state as a precondition, suggesting that they just aren't serious about the financial question at all. (If I say "I will go on a diet when pigs fly", it's a good bet that I'm not really serious about dieting.) Furthermore the arguments frequently involve lurid anecdotes about refugees getting into trouble, highlighting their belief that their main objection to refugees isn't the financial cost, it's that they view the refugees as "bad people" in a general sense.

    1. Who uses only the financial argument? There are legitimate objections to Somali culture (female genital mutilation, wearing the hijab, etc) that have nothing to do with racism.

      1. Who uses only the financial argument?

        Several commenters above use incorrect if not wholly invented instances of "welfare" as their primary motive for keeping the refugees out. But you're right, their real complaint is based on good old American xenophobia.

        1. "wholly invented instances of "welfare""


          What happens when the Somali chap finally manages to get his wife and two kids imported? Dude makes $12.50/hr.

          1. Refugees don't have to wait for their families to arrive to claim welfare.

            Under international treaty refugees are eligible for all available taxpayer supplied benefits

          2. The guy works 60 hour weeks. With the overtime, he's making over $40K. A family can certainly live on that. And that's assuming his wife does not work.

            1. Take home pay is a lot less than that, chief. You reckon that's enough for a family of four? Read the article. He's struggling to send, $1000 back to Kenya some months. Does that sound like a comfortable living situation?

              And what happens if Amazon has to cut overtime?

              1. The official poverty line for a family of 4 in the U.S. is $27900. The median household income is $56K. He's currently right in between the two. And he's struggling to maintain two households now -- one here and one in Africa. It'll certainly be easier when he doesn't have to do that. And why do you expect that his wife will not work as well? But I really don't think your objection is economic.

                1. Do you think families become instantly ineligible for federal and state benefits at the poverty line?

                  As I've said elsewhere in this thread, I live in Dearborn. Both my neighbors are Muslim families. I have friends and coworkers that are Muslim. My wife has friends and coworkers that are Muslim. Most of the Muslims that I know come from Lebanon. Many of them have wealth, but not necessarily tons of income. Because of their low income, it's very easy to get many forms of government aid. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

                  There was a time when the US accepted, almost exclusively, skilled workers that could demonstrate an ability to support themselves and their families. For some reason, idiots have this romantic idea that the US has always accepted any immigrant, regardless of socio-economic status. Nope. Simply not true.

                  If he can demonstrate an ability to support his wife and kids, and also be successfully vetted to the point of showing he's not a potential danger to other Americans, then by all means, let him live the American dream.

                  I don't care what color or religion he is.

      2. "There are legitimate objections to Somali culture (female genital mutilation, wearing the hijab, etc) that have nothing to do with racism."

        Female genital mutilation is illegal in this country and will continue to be illegal for the foreseeable future.

        But I have a hard time understanding a non-bigoted reason why you don't think hijab-wearers should be allowed to come here.

        1. """"Female genital mutilation is illegal in this country and will continue to be illegal for the foreseeable future.""

          Just because its illegal does not mean that its not done.

          """"Michigan doctors charged in first federal genital mutilation case in US"""


    2. In my experience, the complaints about refugees being supported by welfare is a bait-and-switch tactic. The real position is that those opposed to refugees don't want them here *at all*, even if they were entirely supported by private funds, because they are strange and Muslim and "have incompatible cultural values" and, generally, "not American"

      I oppose two groups of people for immigration: (1) those who subscribe to belief systems that teach that I should be killed, and (2) those who aren't able to contribute more to the US than they take in government services. There just happens to be a lot of overlap between (1) and (2).

      I have yet to hear of any refugee skeptic propose that they would be okay with refugees as long as no taxpayer dollars were spent

      We already have that: you can get a visa if you invest $500000 in the US.

      1. belief systems that teach that I should be killed

        Lot's of that kind of talk in that evil book, the Bible. Keep out the Christians, I say.

      2. "(1) those who subscribe to belief systems that teach that I should be killed"

        EVERY major religion has instances where adherents killed nonbelievers. Even Buddhism. So, ban everyone but atheists?

        1. I didn't say "has instances where" but "teach that".

          Perhaps you actually need to know some Muslim women and gay men who have suffered under Islam in order to understand how stupid the idea is that Islam is like "every major religion".

    3. instead, it's this nearly-impossible demand of getting rid of the welfare state as a precondition

      Yup. What's adorable is the bigots' attempt at masking their bigotry in economic principles. But they always give themselves away.

      1. When you can't refute the economic argument, resort to calling them bigots.

        1. Yep. And to put a little more gloss on the topic remember that the economic argument is a free market argument. Like on the fucking Reason masthead.

          Not that too many of the people appearing in the publication are all that opposed to what is very much a form of government subsidized immigration. Eliminate the subsidies and then see who really wants to come here.

          Anyone who cannot sign onto that approach simply isn't much of a supporter of free markets.

        2. That's not the point. Pretty much everyone here wants to get rid of the welfare state. But it is not going away anytime soon. And demanding its abolition as a precondition of stopping all refugee resettlement is a purposefully impossible demand to mask the real intention of not wanting any refugee resettlement AT ALL, even if it were all privately funded. And the reasons for this, I outlined above.

          Why resort to lurid anecdotes of refugees behaving badly if the primary concern about refugees is an economic one? Even if refugees got no welfare at all, there would probably still be some who got into trouble. The point of the lurid anecdotes isn't to complain about them getting welfare. It is to complain about them being here *at all*.

          1. """"And demanding its abolition as a precondition of stopping all refugee resettlement is a purposefully impossible demand to mask the real intention of not wanting any refugee resettlement AT ALL, even if it were all privately funded"""

            I think of it as an incentive, first get rid of welfare and they we talk about immigration.

          2. "Hand wave, hand wave, pay no attention to what the other guy says"

            Yes, it very much is the point.

            Decisions have consequences. We have chosen a welfare state. To add on unrestricted immigration is to invite the whole thing to collapse. Therefore we cannot have expanded immigration unless and until we place and enforce significant restrictions on welfare.

            Your "impossible demand" isn't the only possible approach and you know it. But nobody is even trying to place any limits on welfare. Hell, the powers that be aren't even being honest about just how much refugee resettlement actually costs.

            You want the increased liberty of open borders? Fine, but it will "cost" you the increased liberty of a reduced welfare state.

            What sort of libertarian wouldn't like that bargain? It's a win-win isn't it?

            1. "Yes, it very much is the point."

              Bullshit. The welfare argument is the respectable argument put forth to mask the much less respectable rationale, that those who oppose refugee resettlement here do so because they DON'T WANT THEM HERE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, even if it didn't cost them a penny. As a commenter above noted, they don't want them here because, in part, they wear hijabs. That has nothing do to do with welfare or economics. It is cultural boorishness at best, rank bigotry at worst. Look at this very discussion. Have any of the refugee opponents offered any links or data about how much refugees cost the taxpayers? No. But we've been treated to a half-dozen links about refugees behaving badly. THAT is why the skeptics, in the main, oppose refugee resettlement. Because they believe the refugees are Muslim rapists. Not because they think refugees really are this huge drain on the welfare state. Look at our current conversation. You have deliberately conflated refugee resettlement with "open borders". The two aren't the same thing. But what is the common theme? SCARY FOREIGN INVADERS RAPING OUR HOMELAND. It really is just xenophobia at its core.

              1. "that those who oppose refugee resettlement here do so because they DON'T WANT THEM HERE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES"

                Are you claiming to know my motives, or are you talking about unnamed "others?"

                If the former, go fuck yourself you sanctimonious prick.

                If the later, well then PROVE THEM WRONG by at least attempting to meet their stated concerns half way. Propose some serious restrictions on access to welfare, demand an accounting of the real costs associated with the people already here.

                And if you are not willing to do that? If you insist on adhering to the "impossible demand" of your own creation" coupled with a whole bunch of stereotyping of others and misdirection and minimization? Well, then I think we can see that you really are not one concerned with maximizing liberty for all people.

                1. "If the later, well then PROVE THEM WRONG by at least attempting to meet their stated concerns half way."

                  But if I'm right, then your proposal would be a futile gesture. Even if I did propose some grand scheme to wind down the welfare state, then the refugee opponents will only retort by posting more lurid stories about refugees raping 5-year-olds. What would be the point? They don't really care all that much about the refugees getting welfare so my work would be in vain.

                  My honest opinion is that the comparatively small amount of dollars spent resettling refugees who are fleeing horrible conditions from their native countries, is pretty low on the outrage meter when it comes to the welfare state.

                  Breitbart says that refugee resettlement will cost $4.1 billion in 2017. Considering the source, this figure is almost certainly inflated. Meanwhile, healthcare spending fraud *alone* costs between $82 billion and $272 billion (no one really knows). Yeah, so I will save the majority of my outrage for the much bigger problems in the welfare state.

              2. Just for a point of reference, I live in Dearborn. Both neighbors on either side of me are Muslim families.

                I have no objections to "brown" people coming to settle here. Most Muslim immigrants come here, start a business, and live the American dream. They love this country.

                But to deny that there's a global problem that is EXCLUSIVE TO the Muslim religion is just complete and utter willful blindness.

                1. "But to deny that there's a global problem that is EXCLUSIVE TO the Muslim religion is just complete and utter willful blindness."

                  Okay, so what is the global problem that is EXCLUSIVE to Islam?

                  Is it religious fundamentalism? Nope. Every major religion has fundamentalists who are willing to go to extreme lengths to follow the tenets of their religion.

                  Is it violence committed in the name of the religion? Nope. Every major religion has people willing to kill in the name of their faith. Yes, even Buddhism.

                  Is it the existence of certain cultural practices that we find strange and quite possibly abhorrent? Nope. You can point to every major religion that had practices that were eventually banned in secular society because they traversed secular understanding of right and wrong.

                  I don't think there is a problem with Islam per se, I think the problem is that there are quite a lot of Muslims who live in some of the worst places on earth. (I think there's a reason you don't hear about radical Islamic terrorism emanating from, say, Indonesia; that's because in part, Indonesia is, comparatively speaking, not as much of a shithole as Iraq or Syria is.) I don't agree entirely with the whole "poverty causes terrorism" hypothesis, but I do think it is a combination of poverty, and hopelessness, and corrupt dictators, and perceived international enemies who wish to eradicate them, that can lead to radicalization and eventually ISIS terrorism.

                  1. "Okay, so what is the global problem that is EXCLUSIVE to Islam?"

                    Stop being deliberately obtuse. Christian fundamentalists don't fly commercial airliners into large skyscrapers. Buddhist fundamentalists don't drive heavy trucks through crowds of innocent people. Jewish fundamentalists don't kidnap groups of young girls to be sold as sex slaves.

                    "I think the problem is that there are quite a lot of Muslims who live in some of the worst places on earth"

                    No. It's tribalism. There are disturbingly large percentages of specific groups of Muslims that support the tactics of these extremist groups.

                    I don't understand the reluctance to reevaluating the vetting practices for allowing in refugees and immigrants from the ME. Supporters like to say that these people have a rigorous vetting period before being accepted for entry? Well what does that mean when many are coming from areas where there's little to no documentation to go by? What's the harm in reviewing these policies?

                    Comey admitted that 15% of active terrorist investigations involve refugees.

                    That's a problem.

                  2. Complete disconnect between those combinations and a desire to murder large numbers of innocent people.
                    To us your own twisted rhetoric: there are millions of non-muslims, who have the same combination of factors you list, who not only don't murder large numbers of innocent people, but have no desire to.

      2. Look up the word. It doesn't mean what you seem to think it does.
        Now, for someone, who it does fit, look in the mirror.

  14. The comments here are pretty harsh, but this article has more substance than the norm for Reason.com, this is the kind of piece I would normally see in Time or Newsweek instead. Good job.

    One thing I don't understand. So Mohamed sends between $500-1000 a month to his family in Kenya. Well, I googled it, and figures vary, but the average income in Kenya is about 1000-1200 per year. But he's sending his family at an absolute minimum $6000 per year, on average more like $9000. I would think they would be living pretty damn well in Kenya for that amount. Maybe they are comfortable and don't want to leave?

    1. Yes, Time and Newsweek are the pinnacles of journalism to which all others should aspire.... How much did Newsweek sell for? $1?

    2. this article has more substance than the norm for Reason.com, this is the kind of piece I would normally see in Time or Newsweek instead. Good job.

      That Hard Hitting, Independent-Thinking Newsweek Journalism

      That Groundbreaking, Thought-Provoking, Classy and Professional Totally Not Partisan Hacks Time Magazine

      1. [sniff]
        Eww, a Glib.

    3. John Rohan|5.13.17 @ 9:21PM|#
      "{...} this article has more substance than the norm for Reason.com, this is the kind of piece I would normally see in Time or Newsweek instead."

      Uh, is that intended to be a compliment?
      Time and Newsweek are nothing but New Yorker lite.

      1. I like to think his first paragraph was tongue in cheek, and he was being sarcastic with the 'good job' quip.

  15. Good article.

    Remind me never again to read the comments on a Reason article, though. Jesus F. Christ, you people are right out of central casting.

    1. Rick H.|5.13.17 @ 10:01PM|#
      "Good article."

      Care to be more specific?
      "Remind me never again to read the comments on a Reason article, though. Jesus F. Christ, you people are right out of central casting."

      Aw, did the lefty get his undies in a knot? WTF are you talking about?

      1. Guilty conscience, Servo?

    2. right out of central casting

      For the remake of The Birth of a Nation.

  16. ??

    There is hope for the world yet...

  17. So why do all the anti-immigrant xenophobes hang out in the Reason comment section? There certainly have to be sites that publish material more congenial to your world views, no?

    1. So you want Reason to be an echo chamber with no dissent?

  18. RE: Here's What It's Like To Be a Refugee
    Refugees' full energies are devoted to earning money and absent family members overseas.

    The sad part of this is the republican party see refugees as a threat.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.
    These refugees wanted to leave oppressive regimes and have the opportunity to make money and be left alone.
    Oh, wait.
    The republicans (along with the democrats) don't want that.
    Hence onerous regulations regarding commerce and spying on US citizens.
    I stand corrected.

  19. Wouldnt 10k a year make this guys family top 1% in Somalia?

  20. guess Reason missed the story of the Texas Refugees, not enough welfare money after they chose not to learn English or find a job, so they move to Minnesota, ,Detroit, Milwaukee, where the "Regressives" run things.

    this article is anecdotal, you can find a single story to support any position,..it does not mean public policies should be based on that...

    -"Government is not compassion, it is Force"
    - George Washington

  21. This is a hijrah ? in Islam, a migration to bring Islam to a new land, in imitation of Muhammad when he moved from Mecca to Medina.
    If you have any doubts about Muslim immigration, this might clear up your thinking.
    This "furniture shipment" was supposed to go to the refugee camps in GREECE to make their life more bearable and ease their hardships.
    52 tons of guns and ammunition in big 40' double containers followed the migrants to Europe, pretending to be furniture but, was discovered by the Greek border securities in 14 containers.
    If this doesn't convince you that this IMMIGRATION is nothing less than an ARMED INVASION then nothing will.
    Wonder still why all those young (military age) men without children or wives are taking on the task of traveling all those miles posing as refugees?
    Most western nation Main Stream media won't cover this?

  22. I don't see how this person has much to offer what might be considered for the good of the USA. In fact, his being here weakens the USA as well as the other weakness of not standing for a better government in his own nation. It is indeed a theft.

  23. I've worked in Somalia. If he is sending $500-$600 a month he is supporting a lot more than his wife and two kids. One-hundred dollars a month in Somalia would be a good living. I know government employees in that area that don't make over $100 a month. Even the United Nations only pays $5536/year salary in Mogadishu for a level 1. That's less than this guy is sending to his family. By Somali standards, he is getting rich here. His motivation to be in the US is entirely created by the differences in economic conditions. If we call everyone who wants a better job a refugee we have a problem.

  24. he is supporting a lot more than his wife and two kids. One-hundred dollars a month in Somalia would be a good living ????? ????

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