A Nation Built By Refugees

Today, the number of displaced people in the world is at its highest level ever according to CNN. We have surpassed World War ll numbers, when the world was dealing with the most devastating event in history. 65.3 million people are away from their home today which is 1 out of every 113 people on earth. Anyone watching the news knows what is causing this devastating number.

We lose site here in the USA, that since our founding, we have offered freedom and opportunity to refugees fleeing the world's most dangerous and desperate situations according to the Department of State's Bureau of Refugees. Our refugee resettlement program reflects the core values of our country and has a tradition of becoming a safe haven for the oppressed.

Refugees have been coming to our shores since the pilgrims fled religious persecution and were searching for a place to freely practice, which is the very heart of American identity. Other seekers of religious freedom found a home in the colonies, whether they were Protestants fleeing persecution by Catholics, or Catholics fleeing persecution by Protestants. Starting in 1846, English colonialism stripped the lands of the Irish and 2 million people fled Ireland, whose country population today is still below what it was in 1846. Between 1845 and 1855, 1 million Germans fled to the USA to escape economic hardship. The Civil War temporarily reduced the refugee flow, but then it began again with 4 million Italians coming to America between 1880 and 1924 and 2 million Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe also coming between 1880 and 1924. Another 1 million Mexicans came, because of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

Fast forward to the Cuban Revolution in the 1950's when the American Cuban population was 71,000 and today has grown to close to 2 million. And the Vietnam War brought 125,000 Vietnamese in 1975 and another 280,000 between 1978 and the mid 1980's. Since 1975, the US has resettled more than 3 million refugees from 70 different countries.

Refugees coming to the USA have shown spirit, toughness and strength. Their backgrounds are diverse -- from doctors, scientists and journalists, as well as those who have never even used electricity. Most refugees seize the chance for a new start. They pay taxes, attend our schools, serve in the military and make our communities more vibrant and diverse. After 5 years, refugees can apply to become American citizens. Many of our top citizens were once refugees, like Albert Einstein and former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger.

Today 28.5% of all new businesses in the USA are launched by foreign-born Americans, according to the Kauffman Foundation. In Silicon Valley, the technical heartbeat of our country, immigrant founders started 52% of all new companies reported by Inc. Magazine. Our country has a long history of foreign born Americans creating businesses from Alexander Graham Bell to Sergey Brin of Google. 40% of our current top Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant.

America has hundreds of nonprofit organizations that recognize the importance of refugees' contributions to our country and these organizations also have the compassion to help those in need worldwide. The International Rescue Committee helped 23 million people in 2015. Asylum Access helps refugees with basic human and legal rights. Many faith based organizations like Catholic Relief Services and HIAS (Jewish) and Islamic Relief are dedicated to helping refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of who they are, including being ethnic, religious or sexual minorities. All of these organizations are dedicated to helping refugees rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. Save the Children is working to help displaced kids in refugee camps with basic needs. The World Food Program is the largest humanitarian agency fighting the hunger of these refugees. All of us should be helping with donations to any of these nonprofits who are trying to bring stability to 1 out of every 113 people on earth. And at DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away 1,000 blankets to any nonprofit that helps others, so make sure you nominate your favorite nonprofit in your town.

With 65.3 million people displaced in this world, we cannot in good conscious live our lives as if nothing is wrong. These refugees have been forced to flee their homes by violence, persecution and instability. Everyone on this earth deserves shelter, basic services, medical care and the chance for their children to go back to school and parents to begin work again. Helping refugees is not just up to the governments around the world. Every American should be playing a role, whether it is volunteering to help or donating so others can help. All of our families were at one time refugees coming to America.