Abeer, a refugee from Syria, talks about her experience during a refugee celebration event that Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy attended at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Woodbridge, Connecticut. (Jon Olson/Hartford Courant via AP)

Abeer, a refugee from Syria, talks about her experience during a refugee celebration event that Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy attended at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Woodbridge, Connecticut. (Jon Olson/Hartford Courant via AP)

Syrian immigration to the US has been a success, study finds

By Ishaan Tharoor

The Washington Post

President-elect Donald Trump spent much of the past year demonizing Syrian refugees and other Muslim arrivals to the United States, painting whole communities as threats in the wake of terrorist attacks carried out often by lone-wolf assailants. Before the election, he described Syrian refugees as “a great Trojan horse” and expressed his intent to suspend all Syrian resettlement programs in the United States. A year ago, he called for all Muslim immigration to be halted until authorities “can figure out what is going on.”

An analysis of Syrian immigrants in the United States published Dec. 13 offered a pretty compelling snapshot of what, indeed, is going on: A lot of hard work, integration and success.

The study, put out jointly by the Center for American Progress, a center-left think tank in Washington, and the Fiscal Policy Institute, examined 2014 census data to paint a picture of roughly 90,000 Syrian immigrants in the country. It found that, “when given a chance, Syrian immigrants are fitting into and excelling in the United States, both socially and economically, on a wide variety of metrics.”

Here are some of the major findings, as detailed in a news release:

Syrian immigrants are a highly entrepreneurial group: Eleven percent of the Syrian immigrants are business owners in comparison [with] 4 percent of immigrants and 3 percent of U.S.-born people.

Syrian immigrant businesses are thriving: The median earnings of Syrian business owners are $72,000 a year. This means they are supporting and growing the local economy and providing employment.

They are well-educated: Syrian men, in particular, are more likely to have a college degree or an advanced degree such as a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree.

Syrian immigrants speak English at high levels compared to all immigrants.

Many Syrian immigrants are doctors, lawyers and others with post-bachelor degrees. They earn higher wages and run thriving small businesses, compared with other immigrants as well as people born in the United States, data show.

Cities such as Los Angeles and New York were home to close to a third of Syrian immigrants in the country, although communities exist all over the country. The populations examined in the study are not part of the influx of some 12,500 Syrian refugees resettled in the past year. But, as the authors of the report suggest, they can serve as useful intermediaries in aiding the settlement of new refugees.

“The 90,000 Syrian immigrants who were in the United States before the recent arrival of refugees have been thriving and are therefore well-positioned to help their compatriots when they arrive,” the report says. “Policymakers should take into account the fact that the United States already has a robust Syrian community that is making contributions and may be well-placed to facilitate the integration of new Syrian refugees.”

“The United States accepts refugees on humanitarian grounds, not to improve the American economy. But, the striking success of Syrian immigrants in this country should give us some confidence that Syrian refugees can become integrated and successful here,” David Dyssegaard Kallick, senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute and a co-author of the report, said in an email to WorldViews.

He went on: “While refugees are not exactly the same as immigrants, and they are coming here under much more dire circumstances, the fact that other Syrians are thriving here bodes well for the new arrivals, and it’s also an indication that as refugees arrive in this country they may find at least some people who speak their language, know the culture they come from, and can help them find their way in this country.”

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