Myths About Refugees

There are many myths and misconceptions about refugees.  An important fact to remember is that refugees have entered the country legally after having undergone a stringent application and screening process.  Also, keep in mind the definition of a refugee is any person who is unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of their country of nationality or habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. 

MYTH:  Refugees Do Not Pay Taxes.
FACT:  Refugees are subject to the same employment, property, sales, and other taxes as any U.S. citizen.  Refugees cannot vote, however.
MYTH:  Refugees Receive Special Money From The U.S. Government To Purchase Homes, Cars, And Other Items.
FACT:  The U.S. Government does not provide refugees with money when they arrive in the U.S., however, there are minimal benefits available for emergency situations and the medically needy.  The refugee must apply for these benefits and meet income and resource standards to qualify for any assistance.
MYTH:  Refugees Come To The U.S. for Economic Reasons.
FACT:  Refugees are individuals or families who have come to the U.S. because they were forced to flee their homeland, many times with little or no belongings, leaving family and friends behind and are unable to return.  Most refugees would rather live and work in their native country.
MYTH:  The United States Is The Only Country To Accept Refugees.
FACT:  There are 24 countries worldwide involved in refugee resettlement.  The major resettlement countries include:  Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, United Kingdom, and the United States.
MYTH:  It Seems Like Iowa Resettles All Of The Refugees.
FACT:  Refugees have resettled in every state and several territories of the United States..  In FFY 2008 of the XX refguees admitted into the U.S. 593 were resettled in Iowa which ranked XX among all states.
MYTH:  Refugees Do Not Contribute Or Participate In Society.
FACT:  Refugees contribute a great deal to this country through the sharing of their talents, skills, cultures and customs.  History indicates that some of our most significant contributors to the U.S. have been refugees and immigrants.  And, as noted previously, refugees do pay taxes.
MYTH:  Refugees Represent A Health Hazard To The American Public.
FACT:  There are refugees who have health problems which area a result of the lack of medical care that existed in their country of origin or due to problems they encountered during their flight from persecution.  Most health problems are addressed by health care services in first-asylum camps and in refugee processing centers before refugees are admitted to the United States.  The Centers for Disease Control closely monitors all admissions and prevents the admission of certain persons with health conditions identified as hazardous to the public until they are treated an no longer considered to be infectious.
MYTH:  Refugees Represent Only A Few Nationality Groups.
FACT:  Each year the President and Congress determine the countries of origin and the number of refugees who will be admitted into the United States.  During FFY 2008, refugees from 12 different nations came to Iowa.
MYTH:  Refugees Are Another Drain On The Welfare System.
FACT:  Since Governor Robert Ray started the refugee resettlement program in Iowa, the resettlement philosophy has been that refugees must become self-sufficient as quickly as possible.  The Bureau of Refugee Services focuses on placing refugees into jobs that promote economic independence, generate tax dollars and help local economies.  The use of welfare-type funds is on a short-term basis. 
For comparison purposes, the average Iowan who receives Family Investment Program (FIP) assistance receives benefits for approximately 28 months.  The average refugee who is resettled  in Iowa that receives FIP assistance receives benefits for less than 6.5 months.