The city of Boise is a welcoming community made up of a beautifully diverse population. For years, it has served as a safe harbor for refugees, not only as a destination on their long journey to find asylum, but also as a place to call home. The process of resettling in a new country is difficult and involves culture shock, learning a new language, and redefining your entire life.
The stories of the members of our community that have come here as refugees are important and deserve to be voiced. Whether they can tell their story in English, or with the help of a translator, we are here to listen to their stories in their purest forms.
Why Do Refugees Come to America?
Everyone deserves to live in a place free from persecution, violence, and tyranny. Imagine how you would feel if the area where you live was in constant disarray. Wouldn't you want to have the chance for a better life?
Due to hazardous conditions and life-threatening situations in their homeland, they are forced to flee. America offers a safe and accepting environment for refugees to live a more comfortable life. However, America is a union of states, and some states are more apt to open their borders than others.
Idaho is one of these destination states, and refugees in Idaho are being welcomed in significant numbers. Idaho and many other states acknowledge their humanitarian duties, but there is still pushback on accepting refugees into America.
What Causes People to Become Refugees?
Many of the liberties we have in America simply aren't a reality in other regions of the world. Often, America can provide precisely what a refugee needs — safety, stability, and tolerance. America is a desired location because our country's values can mitigate many of the issues that cause refugees to flee their homeland.
American values are more tolerant than many other regions of the world. Refugees may encounter violence because of their religious beliefs, national origin/ethnicity, or even belonging to a particular social group. In many instances, religious minorities are persecuted by devout majority populations. America has laws against persecution and discrimination — and certainly against violence and abuse towards others. To escape abuse and live in a safer, more accepting environment, refugees look to America to start their new life.
Political unrest and/or constant wars is perhaps the most well-known reason for refugee resettlement in America. In fact, the International Crisis Group reports (quoting the UN Refugee Agency) that, "more than half of the world's refugees come from just three countries ravaged by conflict — Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia…” People leave their war-torn countries to find a more politically stable country, such as America.
Aiding the United States
Brave Iraqi and Afghan men and women are helping our US military. American forces have relied on assistance for interpretation, engineering, and cultural consulting to better their military efforts. While this noble act is appreciated by the US, it is considered traitorous by terrorist groups in their location. This puts the individuals who help the US in a dangerous position, as terrorists will now aim to injure, kidnap, or kill them and their family. These individuals may then become refugees(SIV- special immigrant visa holders) and seek to resettle themselves and their family to a new, safer location.
A Safer Life
As stated before, no one deserves to live continually in fear. Many times, refugees come to America to live a safer life — free from wars, and political instability.
Where Do Refugees Come From?
Pew Research reports that in 2016, nearly half (49 percent) of refugees in America came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Burma (Myanmar). Although the media would suggest the largest population comes from Syria, most refugees actually come from the Democratic Republic of Congo. These countries are experiencing at least one, if not many, of the problems above that force resettlement.
Why Do Refugees Come to Idaho?
Idaho has been resettling refugees since the mid-1970s. And, while refugees cannot choose their resettlement city, they can move to a new town when they have gone through the resettlement process in their original city. The resettlement process may pick Idaho, and Boise specifically, because of the resources, capacity, and compassion shown to welcome refugees into our town. In fact, at one point, Boise had accepted more refugees than in New York and Los Angeles combined.
Another reason refugees may be resettled in Boise, or move here after resettlement, is that Boise is more affordable than other, bigger cities. Refugees often don't have much money when coming to America, and Boise can offer a comfortable, more affordable way to start their new lives.
How You Can Help Refugees in Boise
In many instances, refugees just want to feel welcome. Starting a new life can be daunting. Especially if you've been discriminated or persecuted against, the last thing they want to experience in their new home city is more prejudice. Everyone can do their part in making sure the refugee population feels welcomed and invited into the culture. For example, you can attend events that advocate for refugees.
You can also actively advocate for refugees by reaching out to local, state, and federal representatives to let them know that welcoming policies are important to you.
If you want to do more, you can always donate clothing and money to make the resettlement process easier for refugees. Additionally, you can volunteer your time and work directly with refugees to help them acclimate to their new home. Many times, you'll find they have some fascinating stories, and you quite possibly will make some new friends.
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