Guest Host: Susan Page
According to a report from the United Nations released this week, 65 million people around the world were displaced from their home by the end of last year– the largest number ever recorded by the agency. While the majority are people are exiled within their own country around 20 million are refugees. The largest group, not surprisingly, is fleeing Syria. Europe has struggled to cope with the influx of migrants and have moved to close their borders. On this side of the Atlantic, anti-immigrant rhetoric is running high. Susan Page and her panel discuss the global refugee crisis and how governments in the U.S. and around the world are responding.
- Doris Meissner Senior fellow, Migration Policy Institute; former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (1993-2000)
- Edward Luce Chief U.S. columnist and commentator, Financial Times; author of "Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent"
- Daniel Hamilton Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University
- Leonard Doyle Spokesperson and head of media and communications, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Today, voters in the U.K. go to the polls to decide whether to leave the European Union. And the influx of migrants to Europe has become a centerpiece of that campaign. To discuss the global refugee crisis and how governments around the world are responding, I'm joined in the studio by Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute, Ed Luce of The Financial Times, and Daniel Hamilton of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. EDWARD LUCEThank you for having me.
MS. DORIS MEISSNERThank you.
MR. DANIEL HAMILTONThank you.
PAGEAnd we're joined by phone from Geneva, Switzerland, by Leonard Doyle with the International Organization for Migration. Thank you for joining us.
MR. LEONARD DOYLEIt's a pleasure. Thank you.
PAGEWe're going to invite our listeners to join our conversations with your thoughts and experiences later in this hour. Our toll-free number is 1-800-433-8850. Or you can always send us an email to email@example.com. Well, Leonard Doyle, we're going to talk -- start with you to talk about this report that came out from the U.N. High Commission on Refugees this week. The numbers are staggering. What did they find in the look -- in looking at the number of people around the world who have been displaced from their homes?
DOYLEWell, they're looking at people who've been displaced, and that is to say, crossed international borders, as well as displaced internally. And of course the overall figure is really quite shocking, it's 65 million people and that's up about 5 million people since the last count. Many of these are coming from classic refugee-producing countries that we think about, like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, where there's obviously conflict going on. But the internally displaced are in countries that we may not think about so much, for example, Colombia. There's a huge number of internally displaced people as a result of the wars of the past.
DOYLESo these are problems to -- that, you know, are on the way to being resolved certainly. But the after-wash, if you like, the aftereffect in the displacement of people remains a tremendously important problem.
PAGEThis agency has never seen a report -- this annual report with a number over 60 million displaced people, so setting a record. When was the last time there was a refugee and migrant situation that reached these kinds of proportions? When was the last time the world faced a situation like this?
DOYLEWell, I mean, in big -- in the big picture, I think we are probably going back to World War II and the huge movements of people after World War II, people who really wanted to move and there was a huge demographic problem. People were stuck behind the Iron Curtain, rather, and they really were desperate to move. And out of that event was born the UNHCR, the organization you refer to, and of course International Organization for Migration, IOM -- UNHCR, dealing with refugees, people fleeing persecution and war, and IOM, dealing with people who wanted to move essentially to improve their lives for development, a term which is often scorned nowadays as economic migrants.
DOYLEBut then it is the reason you see nations like the United States doing so well, because people move to better their lives.
PAGENow you talked about where these displaced people who end up crossing international borders are coming from. Many of them, of course, many of the displaced people are in fact displaced within their own countries. But for those who leave their countries, where are they going?
DOYLEWell, I mean, they tend to go to where they think they will have a welcome and perhaps they'll have a job but maybe, more importantly, they already have family links. So of the great numbers that we've seen coming into Europe last year, over a million, the vast majority wanted to go to Germany and Sweden. Well, that's largely because these two countries were -- had opened their doors, opened their arms to a large extent, whereas much of Europe was actually taking the other track and shutting down the welcome. And of course they had people there already and these are healthy economies.
DOYLESo I think it's a question of all three, that, you know, there's a pull factor certainly and they're certainly being pushed by a very sharp stick as well, in the sense that they're coming from refugee-producing countries for the large part. Many, of course, are coming because they see it on the media that, you know, that there's a way into Europe that perhaps they haven't thought about or that's open to them and that their life is miserable. And these people, the so-called economic migrants, you know, have a different impact. And they've had a huge impact on the politics of Europe, as we've seen.
PAGEOne last question for you. The report found that more than half the refugees worldwide are children. Is that unusual?
DOYLEWell, it's certainly growing in -- as a phenomenon. And I think what we're seeing is that young -- families are sort of asking their kids to vote with their feet and to get a move on. Quite often, the people from Afghanistan who come may not actually be children but they will be encouraged to come, you know, they will be 18 year olds, if you like, or 17 year olds. So they might not be what we think of as children in the West. They may be far more mature. So either they come in as adults and claim to be children, because they'll get preferential treatment, they hope. Or they're coming in as unaccompanied minors.
DOYLEAnd it's a huge problem because the unaccompanied minors are then prone to exploitation by traffickers. And there are indeed many evil people out there from the smugglers to the traffickers who wish to exploit people. And we've seen a lot of evidence of this.
PAGEA lot of repercussions from this for the migrants and for other people around the globe. Well, Leonard Doyle, thank you so much for joining us on "The Diane Rehm Show."
DOYLEIt's a pleasure. Thank you.
PAGELeonard Doyle, he's the spokesperson and head of media and communications for the International Organization for Migration. And he joined us from Geneva, Switzerland. Well, let me -- Dan Hamilton, let me ask you, what struck you about this report that came out, the refugee report?
HAMILTONI think we've had such a focus on the migration flows to Europe and that much of the media attention has been on that, that this paints a much bigger picture, that this is a global phenomenon, it's likely to continue, that there are many internally displaced people as well as the people crossing -- going across borders, and that some of these flows are not where we have expected it. There's flows coming now from Africa more up to Europe than from the Middle East. That's a big shift from last year, where it was not that way. There are flows -- there's internally displaced in Ukraine, for instance, because of the war there, over a million displaced people there. So there's displaced in Colombia and other places as was said.
HAMILTONSo I think this notion of -- that it was a regional phenomenon, I think this paints a much bigger picture of the challenges we all are going to have to face.
PAGEAnd, Doris Meissner, you've worked on these issues for years, including as the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the past. What struck you about this report? What was surprising to you?
MEISSNERProbably the deepening trends that we've been seeing for quite some while. This is a huge number, the more than 60 million, and it's definitely a call -- an alarm -- you know, an alarming number. But the reasons for this have been things that we've been seeing for many years and the trend lines are just going in the wrong direction year after year. What's so striking, of course, is that we pay attention to these issues when it affect advanced industrial societies -- Europe, the United States, North America.
MEISSNERBut the vast numbers are in the poorer parts of the world. The vast numbers are in middle- and low-income countries. They're in countries that are working very hard to actually provide some degree of protection. But they're not getting the help that they need. And so we're really seeing the tip of an iceberg in our countries, as compared to what many other countries in the world are facing.
PAGEEd, we have certainly seen a lot of reaction though in the United States and in Great Britain, in response to this situation. Tell us about the vote in -- the Brexit vote, which is going on right now in the United Kingdom on whether to stay or leave the European Union. To what effect has these migration trends affected that vote?
LUCEHugely. I mean, and I think you can -- it's a very close vote. We won't know it till the early hours of tomorrow morning probably. But I think you can safely say that, whichever way it goes, the attitude on refugees will be seen as being very, very influential, if not decisive on the outcome. So the leave campaign brought out a poster last, a very controversial poster of a bunch of brown-looking refugees, a huge, sort of queues of them, crossing a border and it -- entitled, at breaking point, giving the impression that Britain is being swamped by people from places like the Middle East. Very controversial poster that was evocative of Nazi propaganda, some Nazi propaganda posters from the 1930s.
LUCEOn the other side, on the remain side, the assassination of Jo Cox, the British Labour M.P., the murder of her by what was apparently a very strong white nationalist, British nationalist, who was obviously a leave supporter, had changed the tone of this referendum. It was a shocking event. Jo Cox was a campaigner all of her short career for the rights of refugees, for a humanitarian response to refugees. So I think, in terms of shaping the attitudes both for leave and remain, the refugee crisis, the fear of refugees has been absolutely critical. It has nothing to do with the subject matter though. You know, perception and reality are different things in politics.
PAGEWhat would be the impact of a decision to leave the European Union in terms of the migration of people into Great Britain?
LUCEWell, I mean, the key argument here is about the free movements of people within Europe, within the single European market, which has nothing to do with the refugees. And that would presumably come to an end because the anti-immigrant, from wherever they come, attitude is what's really driving the leave campaign. So in some form or another, the free movement of European people's would come to an end. The impact on non-European migrations...
PAGEThe free movements to Great Britain, not...
LUCETo Great Britain.
PAGE...not the free movement within -- on the continent.
LUCENo. Britain's participation in that. There are three million Europeans living in Britain and two million Britain's living in -- on the continent of Europe. And their status would be the most immediately in question.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. And when we come back, we're going to discuss the political repercussions we've seen here in the United States. And we're going to discuss in more depth this new report on the situation for displaced people around the globe. We're going to take your calls. Give us a call, 1-800-433-8850. We've just opened our phones. Or you can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. And joining me in the studio to talk about the situation with displaced people, refugees and migrants around the globe, Doris Meissner, senior fellow with the Migration Policy Institute, Edward Luce, he's chief U.S. columnist and commentator for The Financial Times, he's the author of "Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent," and Daniel Hamilton, he's director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
PAGEWell, we're going to go back to our discussion. I'd just note that we've just learned that the Supreme Court has issued one of the long-awaited decisions for this term, upholding an Affirmative Action Program at -- in the University in Texas. We're going to talk just a big about that at the top of our second hour with Jeffrey Rosen from the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, so you might want to tune in for that.
PAGEBut now let's go back to our discussion about migration, immigration, displaced people, a new report from the United Nations agency that reports a record number of people who are displaced. Ed just talked about the impact that's had on the Brexit vote in Great Britain. Doris, what kind of impact do you think concern about migration has had on our politics here, and especially the candidacy of Donald Trump?
MEISSNERWell of course the candidacy of Donald Trump puts immigration at the center of our political debate. And it's at the center of the debate for lots of reasons, but partially because we have some real issues in the United States that need to be settled legislatively and the Congress simply hasn't been able to come to terms with this issue for more than a decade. But the uncertainty surrounding that, as well as the general controversy with immigration, is something that Donald Trump has built a campaign around. And of course it takes several forms -- build a wall with -- between the United States and Mexico, ban Muslims from the United States, and a real antipathy to refugee resettlement.
MEISSNERSo that this report and what it's talking about is -- goes, you know, runs right smack into an attitude in the United States by one of our presidential candidates that is very, very negative. And that's historically a real departure for the United States. The United States has been the leading country in the world for decades, since the Second World War, for refugee resettlement. Now refugee resettlement is not the ideal solution for the kinds of refugee problems and numbers that we're seeing in this report. Millions and tens of millions of people will never be able to be resettled in other parts of the world.
MEISSNERBut refugee resettlement is a very important way that the United States has shown leadership, has projected its values around the world, has made it possible for countries of first asylum to remain open to refugees that are coming from nearby countries to cross their borders. So what we're hearing in the United States today is very much against the grain of what we, traditionally, as a country have done and what the rest of the world has expected of us.
PAGEWhy does this work -- why does this seem to be working to some degree for Donald Trump? I remember just almost precisely a year ago, when he announced his candidacy, Ed, he was talking about Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. And that's been language he's used for the year since then.
LUCEI think it strikes a chord with large numbers of economically left-behind people who, you know, feel, whether you describe their attitude to immigration, to illegal immigrants, as skapegoating them or whether they're legitimately worried about the economic impact of immigrants on their prospects, it's struck a chord. It's been a lightning rod for everything Trump stands for. The wall is his symbol.
LUCEI just wanted to say one thing, though. I mean, 65 million worldwide, of whom more than 20 million are refugees of cross borders, Europe has taken maybe a million in the last year. Japan hasn't taken any. America has taken 70,000 or 80,000 refugees, but only a couple of thousand Syrians. You know, the rest are either in their own countries or in poor countries. So the fact that the West is in a deep political crisis about this, and yet barely 1 percent of the refuges have actually come to our shores, has got to say something about our low stress thresholds for this subject. It's a very worrying measure of just how neuralgic we are on this question.
PAGEDan Hamilton, tell us where -- what countries have taken -- if the West has taken relatively few refugees, tell us the countries that have taken the most.
HAMILTONWell, if you compare the media attention on Western Europe taking in the refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and so on, that's, as Ed said, about a million last year, but there are over two million in Turkey alone from Syria. There's -- in Lebanon, in the countries surrounding Syria, they've all taken in a million each. A country like Lebanon is only four million people itself, has a million refugees that they've taken in. These are the countries, as Ed said, are weaker. They're less able to financially support any of this. They've taken in many, many more refugees than Western Europe has.
HAMILTONBut much of the attention has been on that because I think the refugee crisis has accentuated a number of other crises in Europe and compounded other problems. You see the Brexit vote. This has become a humanitarian challenge for European countries, many of them not willing to or able to accommodate sudden masses of refugees. Many of the Southern European countries -- their tradition has been of emigrant countries themselves and now they're becoming immigrant countries. They're not ready for that with any type of institutional infrastructure.
HAMILTONThe other flow that's really changing the dynamic with Europe is that because the EU struck a deal with Turkey to sort of throttle down the flows coming from the Middle East, now the danger is going across the Mediterranean from Libya for Africans. So the real flow right now is actually coming from Africa into Libya, a failed state with no infrastructure, where there are now detention centers for these people. Libya never signed any refugee convention so is not under any sort of international obligations to uphold humane conditions for these.
HAMILTONAnd then the human smuggling rings, which are prevalent all through that region, take advantage of all this, where there were 700 deaths in the Mediterranean in late May just on one day. And so the death rate, actually, this year is higher than it was last year, even though the numbers have gone down.
PAGEDoris, you mentioned that we start paying attention to this when it starts affecting us coming across our borders. But I tell you, the other thing I think that makes us pay attention are these heart-rendering, these heart-breaking photos that we've seen from migrants, refugees trying to make that dangerous crossing and often, as Dan said, dying in the trying.
MEISSNERNo, absolutely. I mean, this is life and death and this is a tremendous amount of exploitation and money that is changing hands through smugglers that are tapping into that desperation to get to safer places. You know, the United States has had -- we've had our own experience somewhat with these kinds of boat flows from Haiti and Cuba to the United States -- not now but in the 1990s. When you have that level of danger, countries just have to act. In the '70s and '80s, the boat flows out of Vietnam, after the wars in Southeast Asia, had similar tremendous dangers and political repercussions and implications. So it -- these things recur. And they are -- ultimately the answers have to be in resolving the conflicts and the deprivation that underlies them.
MEISSNERBut the world is very ill-equipped and not being very effective at doing that these days.
PAGEYou know, we have a caller, Tesfa, calling us from here in Washington, D.C., who is from Ethiopia and has some comments I think right along the lines of what you were saying, Doris. Tesfa, thanks for giving us a call.
TESFAThe governments in Europe are dealing with the symptoms. The source of the problems, the refugee problems, are the dictatorships in Africa. There are young people to sit and die there, there is genocide going on in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia. Genocide Watch of America will tell you there is genocide going on in Ethiopia by the dictatorship supported by the United States with hundreds of millions of dollars. And now there are Sudanese dictator who is accused of crime against humanity, has become part of the solution, they say. They're not dealing with the real problem. It...
PAGETesfa, thank you so much for your call. Is that a fair point, Dan?
HAMILTONIt is a fair point. Many of the refugees that we see that have roiled Europe are coming from Syria. So Europe's dealing with the consequences of the crisis. But the crisis is Syria. It is Assad using his own people as a shooting gallery basically and we're not finding a solution to that. Throughout Africa there are any number of challenges, as the caller said, that are driving people north. They find their future in a boat ride. And that's their only hope. So the -- dealing with the sources of the problem ultimately has to be as much of the solution as anything else.
PAGEBut, Doris, I think critics of taking refugees here in the United States, including refugees from Syria, said they're -- they present dangers, that we've seen these mass shootings that in some cases involve, not people who have gone through the refugee process, I believe, but people who have immigrated here or who were born to foreign parents. Is it fair for Americans to be concerned about their safety when they agree to take refugees?
MEISSNERReally, no. I mean, there's a conflation here that's going on. Everything is being lumped together. And the least likely people to be terrorists and the least likely people to pose dangers are refugees. As we've said, in the first place, the numbers are very low. We've only -- the United States took only about 1,600 refugees from Syria last year. We're ramping up this year to 10,000. That's a big ramp up in terms of the level of screening that people are required to go through. The level of screening for refugees coming in the United States is more intense than any other population.
PAGEWhat do you have to do -- if you're going to come into the United States with refugee status, what happens. What's the procedure?
MEISSNERWell, let's take the Syrians, because that is the peak issue at this point. Syrian refugees take years to process to come to the United States. It probably takes too long. But there is an excessive degree of care that is given. They are, first of all, screened by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, referred to the United States as particularly vulnerable. The United States is taking only the most vulnerable people. Almost half are women and children because of the desperation of the circumstances. But then, they are interviewed by refugee officers that work for the Department of Homeland Security. They are screened through all the intelligence agencies, through all of the databases, domestic and international. It's an extensive review.
MEISSNERAnd when they get here, they are placed with voluntary churches, other resettlement agencies. So they are the most victimized. They are the most at risk from the persecution that is taking place in countries like Syria, Somalia, et cetera.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Ed, what about the experiences in Europe with -- they've -- Europe has taken more Syrian refugees than the United States has.
LUCEWell, the -- I mean, there is a suspicion and a realization that, you know, these are people who are not coming from European backgrounds. The example, the incident I'm thinking of most is the New Year's Eve on in Cologne, in Germany, and the media reaction to these apparent -- described as sort of hordes of young, Arab males harassing females in the -- during the New Year revelries, you know, was so magnified. And it turned out to be actually rather a distorted story.
PAGEWhat actually happened?
LUCEWell, that's still disputed. But it turns out there were quite a few people who were refugees, there were quite a few people who weren't refugees. There were quite a few people of Middle Eastern descent, there were quite a few people of European descent. Germany on New Year's Eve goes into a sort of revelry, free, you know, complete sort of behavior free zone.
LUCEAnd a lot of harassment does tend to happen. But the fact that this got so readily conflated with fear of migrants is I think, you know, an illustration there's just the same fear in Europe as there is in -- that Trump is exploiting in the United States.
PAGELet's take a call from Charles who's calling us from Dallas. And, Charles, you're saying you have some family in Europe yourself?
CHARLESYes, that's correct. I have family in Dusseldorf.
PAGEAnd what has their experience been?
CHARLESWell, the -- as you know or may not know, Dusseldorf is very close to a city called Cologne. And last New Year's there's been a, I guess, a revel of some sort and led to some instances of sexual assault in that German (word?) in the city of Cologne. And my concern is that, do they have a justification of being concerned with that many migrants immigrating into Germany or many other countries, such as Sweden. (unintelligible)
PAGEWell, Charles, we're -- we'll ask our panel about that. But let me ask you, for the family members you have who are living in Germany, do they feel that Germany should take in more refugees? Or do they think too many refugees have been accepted already? What's -- what is their attitude?
CHARLESTheir attitude has been currently open. It's a very (word?) a very liberal society where they're willing to take on this burden of -- because they also identify with I supposed the refugees. They're refugees themselves from Vietnam. And sometimes, I want to say, not all refugees are perceived, you know, come with the same values is what I'm experiencing -- ideology speaking. A Vietnam refugee is fairly different than a -- I suppose a Islamic or a Muslim country that comes over from a more, I guess, tumultuous -- a tumultuous precedent, where their ideology is denigrate women, or their ideology may allow for a certain, I guess, conflicts with Western culture.
PAGEAnd, Charles, did your family immigrate from Vietnam to the United States?
CHARLESThat's -- they came from the United States as well. My direct family, yes, from the United States. Whereas, I have family that were rescued on ship, by ship from the -- from a German craft as well, so in the Pacific.
PAGEYou know, isn't this an interesting -- Dan, isn't this an interesting situation we have in this world, where Charles, calling us from Dallas who has this family experience with immigration from Vietnam, fleeing. We know how difficult that process was for the Boat People in Vietnam.
HAMILTONWell, absolutely. You know, you see all these, as the earlier caller said, many of these people are prompted by chaos and violence, great tragedy in their own countries. You're seeing now this wave from Venezuela because of the -- what's unfolding there. Now, suddenly a surge in applicants to come here.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. And when we come back, we'll ask -- we'll talk with our panel about whether the situation in Venezuela is likely to prompt more refugees to leave there. And we'll take your calls and questions, 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. With me in the studio, Daniel Hamilton from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. Edward Luce from the Financial Times. And Doris Meissner from the Migration Policy Institute. Dan, right before the break, we were talking about the situation in Venezuela. Lots of turmoil there. We're going to talk about it tomorrow on the international hour of our Friday News Roundup. Is that likely to prompt more migration, more refugees from Venezuela, do you think?
HAMILTONIt's an evolving situation, but it's not getting better. And you see real turmoil in the country and there is every likelihood that there will be, again, a flow of people leaving a country in such turmoil. And that was the point a number of the callers made, that the sources of this turmoil are really what causes, prompts people to leave. Why would people leave their home and everything that they knew if they didn't feel really persecuted and having to leave? I point to Libya as the, really, explosion point now. You have a failed state.
HAMILTONSmuggling gangs taking advantage of the situation. The Islamic State controls 150 miles of coastline along the Libyan coast. And all of this is just ripe for all sorts of really deep issues of human tragedy. And we are not, as an international community, really addressing the issue.
PAGEIf some -- if there were people in Venezuela who were desperate -- we know there's looting and riots going on. We know people are hungry, searching for food. If they chose, where would they go, most likely?
HAMILTONWell, I think many people go where it's -- where they can. So that usually means neighboring states, first and foremost. We see that with the turmoil in the Middle East around Syria. If you go where you can if you're a disparate. But I do believe there will be some uptick in applications to come to the United States.
PAGEDoris, the Supreme Court has just issued a decision in a case involving immigration. The United States verses Texas. CNN is reporting it's a split court, 4-4 split, we assume. What happened -- tell us about this case. What was at issue with this case?
MEISSNERThis is the case where Texas and then joined by, I believe, 25 other states. 26 states in all. Challenged the President Obama's decision in November, 2014 to offer deferred action against deportation and eligibility for work permits for people in the United States who have lawfully -- who have US citizen born children or children who are -- have a green card. So that would have, that would have involved about four million people in addition to an expansion of the program that's already in place for young people.
MEISSNERWhat this decision does now is say that that program cannot go forward and so the split, 4-4, as it's being reported, means that lower court decision stands, which prohibited the program.
PAGENow, when you have a decision like that where the court basically doesn't take a stand, but it lets the lower court ruling prevail, does that affect the whole country?
MEISSNERIt does affect the whole country, because it's been allowed to affect the whole country. I mean, in other words, it's been a -- it was a nationwide injunction that was issued. And that has, that power to do that, by the district court has not been challenged. So, at this point, it stands for the country.
PAGEAnd this means, basically, that President Obama has no choice, there's no appeal he can do effectively. There's no way he can implement this plan, which he unveiled with great fanfare for the parents of the children we call dreamers.
MEISSNERDreamers. And that program continues in place, the dreamer -- what would have been called the dreamer program, but the other broadening of that program, to many more people, to several million more people, that now is on hold.
PAGEAll right. Let's talk about another issue now being debated, Ed, and that is the US treatment of Afghanistan -- people in Afghanistan who acted as interpreters and translators for US forces. What's at issue there?
LUCEWell, there were about 10,000 Afghans, still are, who worked for US forces of US government, who were promised a special immigrant visa to come to the United States. And that program has basically ground to a halt. Congress has cut it off at the knees. And there is a bill co-sponsored by John McCain to try and get the United States to honor its promise there, its commitment to the Afghans. I think in terms of the debate about whether it's a security risk for us, for our societies to take in refugees.
LUCEI think not only do I agree with Doris that no, it isn't really a security risk. This is a conflation of issues. But actually, in this instance, with the Afghan interpreters, I think it's a security risk, or at least a national interest own goal, self-inflicted goal, not to take in these refugees. Because the honor of the commitment, the word of the United States to people who have taken great risk, some of these interpreters waiting for visas have actually been killed by the Taliban.
LUCEThey're seen as collaborators and for the United States not to honor those obligations is, I think, a risk.
PAGEAnd what is likely to happen?
LUCEThat -- I haven't seen numbers on the way that the Senate's configure, but one would imagine this would get a majority.
PAGEAll right, let's go back to the phones and talk to Christopher. Christopher's calling us from Winchester, Virginia. Christopher, thanks for holding on.
CHRISTOPHERYeah, thank you. So, I came to this country, US, in 1973, as an immigrant, with the goal of working very hard, law abiding, learning English, assimilating, and being a good citizen. And also the fact that I love US. But the fact that right now, there's a lot of resentment to immigrants and refugees seem to be because they come with the ideals of hate. They don't want to assimilate, they don't want to learn English. They have their own laws and everything, and that's one of the reason -- and also, they hate, and they -- they're not, sometimes, law abiding citizens.
CHRISTOPHERSo, this is one of the reasons, not only here, but also in Europe, there is a resentment. It's just like the caller earlier said about what happened in Dusseldorf. That's exactly, I mean, there's a fear, because these people don't come with the understanding, assimilating, learning English and part of the society. They have their own ideology and also the fact that some of them hate US and also the western ideology. And that's one of the reasons I feel strongly. I've been immersed in this culture and so many things I've seen firsthand.
CHRISTOPHERThat's the major difference. There's a resentment because these are people coming not to be enriched and part of the immigrants, studying hard and putting their children to school and things like that.
PAGEChristopher, let me ask you, if you don't mind, where did you immigrate from?
PAGESri Lanka. All right, Christopher, thank you so much for your call. And offering your experiences. Doris, what did you think?
MEISSNERWell, this is a perception that we hear a lot of, and it's a perception that is exploited by the rhetoric and some of the politics. It is not borne out at all by the evidence. The evidence in fact quite the opposite. And that is that refugees, immigrants, whatever form, category you come to the United States -- first of all, desperately want to learn English. We do not have enough English language capability in our educational and particularly our adult education systems for people to learn English as fully as they would like. Secondly, immigrants and refugees work at higher levels than Americans -- native born Americans do.
MEISSNERThirdly, the level of crime and arrests is lower among foreign born populations than it is among the native born population. Refugees, in particular, want to resettle, assimilate. We have a system in the United States where we immediately throw them into work situations. We don't let people sit around for years to be ready to work. That's one of the issues, actually, in Europe. That is a problem for Europe. So, our track record, with current groups, just as with earlier groups of immigrants, actually is holding. We do a good job of bringing people into the society.
MEISSNERBut we have to support those processes. And we have to make it possible for people to move forward in the way that they're motivated to do.
PAGEWell, why do you think there's a perception -- if it's so at odds with the reality, why is there this perception for Christopher and others?
MEISSNERWell, I think it's a perception that's based on a lack of knowledge and a lack of experience. The -- there, you know, there is a deeply engrained tendency in all of us, the fear of the other. And refugees, other immigrants, people from parts of the world that we don't have experience with seem to be threatening. So, one needs to break that down, and that tends to get broken down in neighborhoods and PTAs, in job places, but parts of the country that have less experience with immigration are more fearful. Parts of the country that are deeply involved in immigration, the large cities, tend to be much more able to deal with integration issues.
PAGEAlthough, you know, I'm from Wichita, Kansas. I was back there just last month, and that -- when I was growing up, that was not a place that had a lot of people from other countries in it. Not a lot of immigrants. Now, it's really...
PAGE...remarkably diverse, and I think that's an experience a lot of communities have had across the United States.
MEISSNERAnd it's very much across the board now, in the middle of the country. Because that's a part of the country that's been losing population and immigrants are revitalizing it.
HAMILTONYes, it's a -- you know, immigration is a process, and integration is a process. It takes a generation. It takes time for people who come from a different country to get language skills and so on. Many of them do tend to settle in their (unintelligible) community in which they feel comfortable and can interact. I think that's a challenge any receiving country has is how do you integrate the refugees and migrants and do they -- how much do they stay within their own world verses really integrating?
HAMILTONAnd I think that's a challenge we have had history with that. Many European countries haven't had as much history with that and they're challenged by the very notion. But Doris's point, my mother in law is from Skylar, Nebraska, 3,000 people, it's west of Omaha, settled by Czech immigrants. Now, because of a meat packing plant there, it is mainly an Hispanic town. It's a Czech/Hispanic little town in Nebraska, and that is the American story of how you have the conflicts that arise from that. But also, it's a new generation.
HAMILTONThey're committed, as far as I can see. There's a whole get out the vote, the rotary club organizes a get out the vote program for the new immigrants. I mean, this is the story of America. Not without many, many problems, obviously.
PAGEHow have things gone in Skylar, though, when you talk to the more traditional Czech immigrants who have been there for so long? How do people feel about the changes in their community?
HAMILTONWell, many, many resent it. Many know that their livelihood, though, depends on keeping that industry going. And that you need young people, you need this whole different tradition. And that's, I think, the story of much of the mid-west these days.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's talk to Tim. He's calling us from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Tim, you're on the Diane Rehm Show.
TIMHi, my name is Tim and I'm a Syrian national, currently on TPS, temporary protected status, here in the US. I came here three years ago on an international student visa (unintelligible) . And I have one comment regarding the integration of immigrants. So, when I came to this country, I was obviously a student, and I have a very good GPA, 3.5, and I'm financing my own studies. I don't need any help. And when I first came in, you know, everybody was welcoming. Because of the -- I think the Ann Arbor community is a very open and welcoming community.
TIMMy problem right now is that although I chose not to apply for asylum or any other status that I may be granted by the US government, I chose to stay on TPS because I didn't want to cheat the system. I didn't want to go and say, okay, I'm a person who was tortured or interrogated or whatever it is. I wanted to stay true to myself and to my ethics. But currently, I'm in a very tight spot where I'm on TPS, I lost my F1 visa, and now I'm waiting for a renewal for that status. But I can't get it. And although I'm an accomplished professional, and a very good student, as my grades show and my work records show.
TIMI'm still having trouble with the government actually providing me with options to stay in this country. So, my question is, if the United States was a sports team and they want to recruit very professional players from outside the United States, wouldn't I be, or people like me, would be ideal candidates to be in this scene, to be a part of this community? Especially when you're a law abiding resident of this country.
TIMSo my question is -- yes, hello?
PAGE...so, Tim, I'm going to put your question to Doris Meissner. She -- since she actually ran that agency for a while, maybe she'll have some ideas for you. But before I turn to her, I just want to ask you, you're from Syria, do you still have family and friends in Syria?
TIMYes, I do. I do. I come from a Mediterranean city called Latakia. It's certainly safe. They're living in a very harsh situation because it's under regime control, it's under the government control. We don't have problems other than suicide bombings and attacks from the outside, from ISIS and other opposition forces. But living under the regime doesn't mean that it's 100 percent, you know, comfortable with it. It still has difficulties.
TIMI do have problems, but going back. If I go back, I will be apprehended and I will be, you know, to say the least, I will be very, very much in a very bad situation if I go back.
PAGEYeah, Tim. That's so interesting. We really appreciate your call. Well Doris, you've heard Tim's description of his situation. Do you have any advice for him?
MEISSNERI think -- first of all, I'm very sympathetic with the dilemma he has and the choices he's trying to make. The TPS protection that he has at the present time is -- it is a temporary protection, but it is a -- it's established, it's in place. I take it that he's applying for a renewal of his work permit, and that will come through, because that's a policy of the US -- of the government at this point. Of the administration, but his larger point goes right to the dilemma that we have as a country. That we're not talking about, and that is that our immigration laws are out of date.
MEISSNERThey've been out of date for a long time. We are not making the advantage out of immigration and out of our history as an immigrant nation that we could be. And that goes to the need to reform our immigration laws. One of the major provisions which would be foreign students educated in the United States should have a much easier pathway into staying for a longer period in the ways that he's describing. And until the Congress acts to make some changes, there's nothing further that can be done.
PAGEAnd we're almost out of time, but Ed, let me ask you, you were nodding your head when Tim described the community, the city that he's from in Syria. Are you familiar with it?
LUCELatakia? Yeah, well, that's where the Russian naval port is. And they've been beefing that up, and I can quite understand why Ann Arbor will be a more comfortable situation than Latakia. I could think of no more eloquent repost than what we heard from Tim to the earlier caller's concerns about refugee crime, et cetera, than what Tim said. He's the living embodiment of everything that attracts people to come to America and what America wants to retain.
PAGETim, thanks so much for your call and we're out of time. I want to thank our panel for joining us this hour. Edward Luce, Chief US Columnist and Commentator at the Financial Times. Daniel Hamilton, Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. And Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. Thank you all so much for being with us.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.