Anyone who has been on social media is aware of the prevalence of memes attempting to comment on deeper issues, such as refugee resettlement. While memes can serve their purpose for a laugh in many cases, it is typically not helpful to share memes as a way to talk about refugees. Many memes can oversimplify an issue, and they tend to be misleading. Some insinuate that refugees are getting a free ride. USCRI’s senior vice president for global engagement, Eskinder Negash, speaks to Mashable to respond to false rumors circulating social media:
“The truth is that refugees don’t receive a free ride. They are responsible for paying back the cost of their airfare to reach the U.S.,” said Eskinder Negash, senior vice president for global engagement of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. They receive social services and a modest stipend when they first arrive and are eligible for federal benefits, but are under pressure to quickly find jobs to repay their debt. They rent apartments and pay local, state and federal taxes.
Negash, who has been working on refugee resettlement in the U.S. for decades, said these immigrants are routinely welcomed by local communities and religious organizations, and often revitalize languishing neighborhoods.
“I don’t know how you quantify the value of a human being or somebody you’re trying to save,” Negash said, reflecting on the anti-refugee memes. But he also felt the messages overlooked an essential aspect of America’s legacy in the world.
“The history of the U.S. throughout the past [few hundred] years is bringing ordinary people and then allowing them to do extraordinary things,” he said. “This country is a product of immigrants, regardless of nationality, religion or ethnicity, and it’s what makes this country great … If we stop refugees from coming, we’re stopping our history.”