Refugees and Homeless Veterans: Victims of the war machine

TL;DR: Every time someone brings up homeless veterans in the conversation around refugees, God kills a kitten. Please, stop the senseless killing.

In 1968, the United States – along with 145 other nations – signed a UN treaty called the “Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees”. This was an extension of 1951’s “Convention relating to the Status of Refugees”, another UN treaty which laid the groundwork for dealing with refugees in Europe following the fallout of WWII.

While the details of these treaties are too numerous and intricate to describe here, the summary is this: all signatories agreed that they would accept refugees from many areas of the world. It defined a refugee as such: “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it […]”

Treaties themselves have no force inside our nation – instead, they’re implemented with a law. The specific law implementing these treaties for us has been amended over the years, but the most relevant one in today’s discussions is the “United States Refugee Act of 1980”. This established the current protocols for how we admit refugees, set the limits we follow in terms of quantity, and defined how they’re to be integrated into society (“resettlement and absorption”).

By implementing this treaty, we became bound (both to the UN and to ourselves) to take in refugees, assuming they were able to be vetted accordingly before entry – this is described in detail in the act, and has expanded to increase safety over the years. Under these laws, we are obligated to “resettle and absorb” refugees, up to the legal limit. This is independent of their country of origin and based purely on the circumstances of the individual refugee.

What does this cost us? Next to nothing. Each refugee costs us about $12874 per year for the first 5 years, and the vast majority of refugees are self-sufficient (not receiving any government benefits) before the end of that 5 years. We have resettled 1854 Syrian refugees since 2012 – an average of 618 a year – and that total cost comes to just under $24M a year, or 0.000631% of our Federal Budget alone. (Note: This ignores the fact that a large portion of the refugee costs are borne by the state, further dropping this percentage.)

So when I see people saying “We need to take care of our homeless veterans before refugees”, I can’t help but twitch a bit. First and foremost, refugees have as much a right to be in the US as any current citizen does; it’s simply a fact under the law. Secondly, “taking care of” these veterans would require either your money directly (which I encourage!) or new legislation; refugee laws are already in place and have been for decades. Lastly, it’s a false dichotomy – there’s absolutely no reason we can’t do both.

The cost of the F-35 jet program could buy every single homeless person in the US – veteran or not – a $600k house. But instead we continue to dump trillions of dollars into the military, causing even more problems and – you guessed it – creating more refugees. The veterans and refugees are both a victim of greed and myopia. They’re both a victim of decades of military masturbation.

 
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