Refugees from Burma strain U.S. aid groups
Posted by Judy K. Warner on October 15, 2007
That’s the headline on an Associated Press article over the weekend. It follows the template of articles about refugees, beginning by focusing on a family and their difficulties. Then it goes on:
The number of Myanmar refugees settling in the U.S. has grown exponentially this year, threatening to overwhelm local aid groups and government services.
What about overwhelming local communities? Here’s more:
“We are receiving complaints on many levels within the community,” Debbie Schmidt wrote Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., on Sept. 13. “… Health has become a serious issue in this community because a large percentage of the arriving refugees are testing positive for tuberculosis.”
Souder, in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, warned of a backlash from host communities toward the legal refugees at a time when the nation already is hotly debating illegal immigration.
My heart goes out to these poor Burmese. But here’s the thing: The U.S. brought in almost 14,000 Burmese refugees in the year ending September 30. But as we previously reported, there are more than 140,000 Burmese refugees in camps in Thailand. Is the best policy to bring them all here, with all the social and financial costs associated with the mass migration of people who are culturally so different and who will need government support for many years?
I don’t have an answer as to what to do with the millions of refugees around the world who need help. I just know that the United States cannot take care of all them. In the case of the Burmese, could we spend the same amount of money and help them settle somewhere nearer Burma, in case they are able to return someday, in a country where they will not be so culturally out of place?
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