I’m horribly conflicted. The dog pants debate has me questioning the very core of my beliefs. No, wait that wasn’t it. It was the possibility that Jar Jar Binks may secretly be a Sith Lord. No, never mind – that’s a level of geekdom too frightening to contemplate. What has me questioning what I think are refugees. I’ll be spending the next few months doing some public health work with our local Somalian refugee population… and that has me wrestling with my thoughts.
The problem is that if you step away from the simplistic political statements, there are valid arguments on all sides of the refugee issue. At the very core is the humanitarian aspect. I wouldn’t be in health care if I didn’t want to help people. There’s such flux right now it’s hard to get an accurate figure, but the world refugee population is well north of 60 million people. That’s a whole bunch ‘o folks displaced simply because they had the unfortunate luck to be born in the wrong place.
When you hear of the conditions, the terror, hunger, and abject poverty these folks endure, as a compassionate human being you want to help. What we consider poverty in the US would be a massive step up for many of these people. Looking at much of the world it’s mind boggling how fortunate we are in the US. Of course I want every kid to have an iPhone 10, selfie stick, and iFetch so you don’t have to actually interact with your dog. Oh, and a pony. We all know immigrants don’t have ponies.
On the other side, this country is almost $19 trillion dollars in debt. The US already gives $50 billion a year in foreign aid and another $70+ billion in private aid each year. By far the United States is the most generous country on the planet. Meanwhile our schools and local infrastructure are suffering. The healthcare system has no capacity for preventative care. Most cities have extremely limited mental heath services, forcing the police to deal with it and incarceration as the only solution. Most schools simply don’t have the budget to keep up with the technological demands of the future. We’ve completely lost the median income, manufacturing base of jobs we once had. If you don’t have the education and skills to compete for a high income job, it’s minimum wage for you. There’s simply very little in-between anymore and the wage gap is a very real thing.
We’re bringing in roughly 100,000 refugees a year. There are somewhere between 11 and 20 million illegal immigrants in the country (through some magic voodoo, the fed reported number has been 11 million for the last 10 years). The vast majority of these folks, through no fault of their own, have very limited education and job skills. No doubt a better deal than they had previously for sure, just not such a good deal for the rest of us taxpayers. The 2013 estimate for 5 year household costs for a middle eastern refugee is $257,000 (resettlement payments, welfare, food programs, Medicaid, public housing, etc…). Multiply that out and it’s a number with a truckload of zeros.
Ah, but they’ll become good tax paying, productive members of society you say. Uh, nope. The average wage after five years is about $10 an hour. That means they’re not paying state or federal income taxes. Not only that, they’ll be receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit and probably the Additional Child Tax Credit. They will be the biggest consumers of your local support infrastructure, the highest percentage of police/fire calls for service, and will use the local emergency room as their primary care physician. Bottom line, a net fiscal drain on the economy. None of this is their choice – they simply never started out with the advantages those of us who won the ovarian lottery did.
But, but… we’re a nation of immigrants. Give us your huddled masses and whatnot. That whole statue of liberty thing had nothing to do with immigration. It was intended to memorialize our independence. That quote came later and was from a poem written for a fundraiser (yes, really). Regardless, we’re no longer a nation with a vast, untamed west to exploit – requiring no skills other than a good work ethic and a can-do attitude. Things are a tad more complex now and this nation is arguably on the brink of losing serious economic ground in the global economy. Why would we want to continually take in massive numbers of folks who have a very limited ability to help us move forward?
I can convince myself of anything. I’m not sure what I think at this point. I like diversity. I lived the bulk of my life in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. I truly enjoy helping people. Had I won the Powerball, I probably would have adopted every dog I see in those ASPCA commercials. At the same time I’m also tired of taxes and continually being asked to pay more just to maintain an infrastructure that’s barely supporting the folks here today. I don’t like being labeled as some sort of racist if I’m concerned about security and/or don’t fawn over the idea of open borders.
It is an unfortunate truth that we simply cannot solve the worlds woes and help everyone. That sucks and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to make the decision about where we draw the lines. I wish our political discourse didn’t have to be so black and white… because the issues just aren’t that simple. It makes my head hurt. I think I’ll just focus on what’s in front of me and helping some needy folks in the community.
Meanwhile, I’m going to go get me some ethnically diverse food. Taco Bell is authentic south of the border chow, right?