Here are some essential facts about refugee resettlement to share with the misinformation mongers
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As we watch reports of thousands of Afghans fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of a Taliban takeover, the question of where they will go looms large. The world was already in the midst of a refugee crisis, with 82.4 million people forcibly displaced at the end of 2020—double the number there were just ten years earlier. Of those, more than 20 million are official refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Between ongoing civil wars, increasing disasters driven by climate change, religious persecution, and more, humanity has more people in need of a safe country to call home than at any other time in history.

The dramatic and visible nature of the dangers facing Afghans targeted by the Taliban has prompted an outcry of support for refugees, which is heartening to see. The U.S. has a long and proud history of welcoming refugees, right up until the Trump administration drastically slashed the refugee ceiling—the maximum number of refugees we resettle—to historic lows.


Even with the Biden administration raising the refugee ceiling for 2021 from Trump's 15,000 to a much larger 65,000, we're still below our historic norm. According to experts interviewed by The Guardian, the nation's refugee resettlement infrastructure was nearly demolished during Trump's presidency. Those systems will take time to build back up again.

But successfully welcoming refugees requires not only systematic logistics but social and political will, which can be hampered by misinformation and fearmongering. It's vital to have the facts straight before listening to people saying it's too expensive or too risky to bring refugees into the country.

FACT: Refugees and migrants/asylum-seekers at the southern U.S. border are not the same thing.

I often see people say "We already have too many refugees coming across the border already," but the vast majority of people trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico are not official refugees. They are migrants or asylum-seekers, which means their claims for needing refuge have yet to be vetted and processed. "Refugee" is a specific designation under international law, and refugees are processed through a different protocol than migrants and asylum-seekers at the border.

The refugee ceiling is for legally recognized refugees. In the past decade, according to State Department data, 28 percent of refugees have come from Africa, 63 percent from Asia, 5 percent from Europe, and 4 percent from Latin America and the Caribbean.

FACT: Refugees are the most vetted people to ever step foot in the U.S.

A common myth is that refugees pose a security risk to the country, but that's not backed up by either logic or evidence. The vetting process for refugees (which you can see in detail here) is the most stringent of any group to enter the United States. It can take up to two years for a refugee to get cleared to resettle here. If someone with ill intent wanted to enter the country, going through the refugee resettlement program would absolutely be the hardest and longest way to do it.

Additionally, refugees (and all immigrants, actually) are not the ones committing terrorist attacks in the U.S. A 2017 Cato Institute study found that the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack by a refugee is about 1 in 3.86 billion per year. Immigrants of all kinds are also less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.

FACT: Resettling refugees is good for our economy.

Another common myth is that refugees are a drain on our resources. While there is an initial cost of bringing people in and helping them get on their feet, analysts have found that refugees actually have a net positive impact on the economy. One reason is that refugees are more likely to start businesses than native-born citizens or even other immigrants. And in an analysis of Census data, Economics professor Ramya Vijaya found that refugee women were more likely to be working or actively looking for work than native-born women.

Obviously, we have to have the budget for the initial investment, but that's essentially what resettling a refugee is—an investment. We don't seem to have a problem finding money for guns and bombs, so finding money to help the people who end up paying the price for our wars seems like it shouldn't be too hard, especially when we know we're going to get that money back in the long run.

FACT: Refugees in general have the character qualities we want to see in our country.

I know some Afghan refugees who have been stuck in Jakarta for years, waiting for a chance at resettlement. (Indonesia allows them to stay but they can't work or get a bank account and are basically just living in limbo relying on the charity of others.) And honestly, they are some of the kindest, most hard-working, earnest, smart, and resourceful people I've ever encountered. I have often lamented that I couldn't bring them here myself (or trade them for some of my fellow Americans who could use a change of perspective).

Every human being is unique, of course. But the nature of being a refugee means having to overcome incredible difficulties. It means having to problem-solve and find a way, even when a situation seems impossible. It requires courage, resilience, and fortitude. These are all qualities of character we value as a society.

And what better way to build goodwill and loyalty around the world than to offer people fleeing danger safe refuge and opportunity? Refugees who get resettled are grateful when they are welcomed into a community and usually want to repay the generosity offered to them.

Seriously, refugee resettlement is pretty much all upside for the U.S., unless you're afraid of diversity or have some irrational fear of foreigners.

If you think the U.S. should try to bring in more refugees than the current refugee ceiling allows, sign this petition from the International Rescue Committee.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Screenshots via @castrowas95/Twitter

In the Pacific Northwest, orca sightings are a fairly common occurrence. Still, tourists and locals alike marvel when a pod of "sea pandas" swim by, whipping out their phones to capture some of nature's most beautiful and intelligent creatures in their natural habitat.

While orcas aren't a threat to humans, there's a reason they're called "killer whales." To their prey, which includes just about everything that swims except humans, they are terrifying apex predators who hunt in packs and will even coordinate to attack whales several times their own size.

So if you're a human alone on a little platform boat, and a sea lion that a group of orcas was eyeing for lunch jumps onto your boat, you might feel a little wary. Especially when those orcas don't just swim on by, but surround you head-on.

Watch exactly that scenario play out (language warning, if you've got wee ones you don't want f-bombed):

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