Does a Refugee Ban Really Make America Great and Safer?

Does a Refugee Ban Really Make America Great and Safer?

By Ryan Smith

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

“A Nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but it’s lowest ones” ― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom


I am a follower of Jesus, who was a refugee.

One of the things that makes America Great is our refugee resettlement program. Since 1975 this program has allowed over three million people to start new lives in the U.S. who have fled their country because of persecution and war. Often these refugees have lost everything and risk death if they stay in their country. The U.S. refugee resettlement program has actively demonstrated our nation’s great compassion and generosity for many of the world’s most vulnerable people.  Additionally, this program helps us to stay faithful to our historical roots as a nation of immigrants.

Our new President Donald Trump just stopped the U.S. refugee resettlement program. He has temporarily banned all refugees from entering the U.S. no matter where they are from. He has banned people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from coming to the U.S. entirely, including people from Syria. President Trump has also reduced by over fifty percent the number of refugees to be resettled in the US in 2017.

Does closing our country’s door to refugees make America Great? Will it make America safe? The evidence says no.

Refugees are not a threat to U.S. citizen’s safety. Here is the reality: the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001. Since then, how many fatal terror attacks would you guess refugees have carried out in the U.S.? If you guessed zero, you would be correct. Additionally, vetting refugees for arrival to the U.S. is a very rigorous security process that takes at least one and half to two years. (See chart below.)

It is also important to note that more refugees remain employed before and after they become citizens than their U.S. born counterparts. Refugees pay taxes and have overwhelmingly proven to be contributing members of society, regardless of ethnic or religious background. It is one thing to read about refugees in the news or on social media, but it is a world of difference to meet them and hear their stories. I wonder if President Trump’s advisors would take the time to meet Syrian refugees in the U.S. and really listen to the hell that they have left, if he would reverse this horrible decision to lock them out?

From 1996 to 2004 I had the privilege to meet and serve hundreds of refugees from all over the world (including people from countries that are now banned) when I worked for World Relief, a Christian refugee resettlement organization in Chicago. My life was changed for the better by a friendship with a Bosnian Muslim refugee family who opened up their lives to a twenty-one-year old Christian kid and taught me about life, loss, and forgiveness. I have stayed close with this family for over twenty years. They love my family, they love America, and they are model U.S. citizens. Here is their story of courage and perseverance:

My friends had very good lives in Bosnia and worked in one of the largest food processing factories in Ex-Yugoslavia. They were in the process of building a new house and raising their two children when war came to their town. At this point they fled for their lives with only two suitcases. Their brother and many of their friends were killed. They crossed the border into Croatia with hundreds of other refugees where they lived in a tent refugee camp on a hillside in Croatia for over a year. They were interviewed and screened by the UNHCR and Department of State during this time and were finally approved to come to the U.S. Once here, they lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment in Chicago and worked labor intensive jobs: cleaning sixteen rooms a day as a hotel housekeeper and shoveling Chicago snow as a janitor outside of a Michigan Avenue building. After five years my friends were approved for U.S. citizenship. At this time they got better jobs in janitorial services and accounting. Their daughter was the valedictorian in her high school and became a college graduate. My friends have now bought two houses and they feel they are living the American dream.

The example of these friends in America is the norm for refugees, not the exception. Will we fail the great American experiment by locking out future citizens like this Bosnian family? Ending refugee resettlement will not make America great, it denies our history, and for followers of Jesus it denies our faith.


Support refugees by giving to World Relief-DuPage at:


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