America should be clamoring to take in refugees, and not just for humanitarian reasons.

There are currently more refugees in the world than at any time in history—and half of them are children.

As of the end of 2017, there were a record 68.5 million displaced people in the world. Of those, 25.4 million are refugees—the highest number the world has ever seen according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Refugees are not merely migrants looking for a better life. The U.N. defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence” and “has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”


Refugees are distinct from asylum seekers as well, in that in order to obtain official refugee status your fear of persecution has to be verified as credible.

These are people who have shown that if they stay in their home country, they will either be targets for suffering or they will die. They have nowhere to go if other countries don't offer them safe haven. And half of them—more than 12 million of these refugees—are children.

Here's a mind-blower: In the face of this crisis, the U.S. is admitting the fewest number of refugees ever.

There are two things you need to know about where the U.S. stands right now when it comes to refugees:

1) We admitted fewer refugees last year than we did following the worst terrorist attack in history. (You know, when drastic security precautions were legitimately warranted.)

2) We are currently resettling fewer refugees in the U.S. than we ever have, though the need has never been greater.

Since 1975, some 3 million refugees have found a home in the U.S. through government resettlement programs, with an annual average ceiling of 96,000 per year.

The lowest annual number settled until recently was 2002—the year after 9/11—when 27,131 refugees were admitted.

In 2018, the U.S. admitted 22,491—the lowest number ever.

Credit: Migration Policy Institute

And at our current pace, we will settle even fewer refugees than that in the 2019 fiscal year—far below the already historic low ceiling and below the historic low actually admitted last year.

It's unprecedented. And it's flat out wrong.

Suggesting we should resettle more refugees isn't just a humanitarian plea. It's economically and politically smart.

President Bush reduced the number of refugees in 2002 and 2003 following the 9/11 attack, but he didn't cut them off completely. He could easily have done so, saying, "It's too risky," or "Terrorists might sneak in," or "America is full." So why didn't he?

I can think of several good reasons, which are also reasons why we should be striving to increase—not decrease—the number of refugees we resettle:

1) Refugees have been shown to be good for the economy. Research shows that even when we account for the cost of getting them settled, refugees have a neutral-to-beneficial effect on the economy. In other words, they tend to create more revenue than it costs to bring them in. They are more likely to start businesses than the average American-born citizen, so they add jobs and boost the economy.

2) Helping refugees makes the country stronger. This just seems like common sense to me: If a family fleeing persecution is given a safe haven in a country that welcomes them with open arms and helps them get on their feet, that family will naturally feel a loyalty to and love for that country. They will convey that loyalty and love to their personal network, which increases that nation's sense of pride and lifts its status on the world stage.

3) Refugees pose practically no risk, as they are the most vetted people to enter our country. The refugee resettlement program is the longest, hardest, and least likely way to get into the United States, hands down. Most refugees don't get to choose their country of resettlement, and the ones who come to the U.S. are so thoroughly vetted that the chances of a bonafide terrorist slipping through the cracks is practically non-existent. With the 3 million refugees we've taken in in the past four decades, the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack by a refugee on U.S. soil is a whopping 1 in 3.64 billion. You're literally more likely to be killed by your own clothing than to be killed by a refugee terrorist.

4) Helping desperate people keeps them out of terrorists' hands. Terrorists and radicals love to play the "America hates us all" game, and can easily use our isolationist policies as fodder to recruit desperate people. If developed nations with the means to help say, "Nope, we won't help you" and a radical militant group sweeps in and says, "See? They don't care about you. Come, we will give you what you need," what will people struggling to survive do?

There are lots of myths about refugees out there, and the vast majority are perpetuated by fearmongers. The facts show that there is no reason other than prejudice and unfounded fear to severely limit the number of refugees we're taking in.

America also has a long, bi-partisan legacy of helping refugees that has served us well.

Refugees also bring culture and innovation with them that enrich our society. Without refugees, we wouldn't have nifty things like video games, Sriracha hot sauce, Madeleine Albright, or the theory of relativity. Just think of all the amazing food and arts and interesting friendships we're missing out on.

It is in our DNA as a nation to open our doors to those in need. The U.S. was founded as a safe haven for persecuted people. We have regularly resettled more refugees than any other country, which has solidified our identity as a diverse "melting pot" or "tossed salad" society. We have taken in refugees through every administration, Republican and Democrat.

Perhaps that's why it feels so unnatural to severely limit the number of refugees we're admitting, especially since our economy is booming and the need is so great.

Refugees should be vetted, and we've proven we can do that. We can't take everyone, and no one says we should. But we have plenty of open space, a resettlement system that works, an economy that can handle the initial investment, and people willing to help refugees successfully assimilate.

Slashing our numbers is simply foolish and shortsighted. Not only does doing so hurt refugees—again, half of which are innocent children—but it hurts our country in the long run as well.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."