Build a wall! They’re taking our jobs! Go back to your own country! We’ve all heard the mantras. What’s really going on with our immigration system? I’ve decided I’m gonna find out. In my effort to learn more, I attended a Refugee Foster Parent Orientation hosted by Catholic Community Services. They are 1 of 24 resettlement agencies nationwide. After the two hours session, I realized there are a lot of common misconceptions or little known facts about immigration. Here are a few:

  • There’s a big difference between refugees and asylum seekers.

Refugee status is an internationally recognized status. A person must flee their country, due to war or some other approved reason, and go to a refugee camp. While in the camp they are interviewed by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and given a number. The resettlement process begins. The designated resettlement countries begin their own selection process.

Asylum seekers are people that cross the border, often from South America, and present themselves at the border. They can tell a border agent that they are fleeing violence, political oppression, etc. US Department of Health and Human Services take custody of the person. It is then the responsibility of the person to prove to a US Court that they will be in danger upon returning to the country of origin.

  • Refugees go through years of vetting.

There’s always talk of needing more extreme vetting of people coming from war torn areas. A child, on average, goes through 3 years of US vetting. The process for adults takes 17.5 years. After the US accepts a refugee they must go through psychological and physical exams before they arrive as well. I don’t know how to get more extreme than that.

  • The US is often not the country of choice for refugees.

This was a shock to me. One of the things that has become a talking point is that these people are taking advantage of the system! They lie so they can come to the United States! Turns out many of the people aren’t happy about getting resettled here and they don’t have a choice in where to go. Often they want to stay where they are, get sent to a country with a warmer climate or go somewhere that resembles their home.

These are 3 that stick out in my mind right now, but I have pages and pages of notes that include many more interesting facts that aren’t widely known. As I continue my own research into the subject I look forward to spreading more awareness about what the immigration system is like. I hope that I can help change the narrative about immigrants. It seems to me these people need our empathy, not our hate.

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