This coming Saturday is World Refugee Day. For the occasion, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has issued a report on the best and worst nations for refugees. The worst countries were Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Thailand, Kenya, South Africa, and Gaza (though Gaza’s not a nation, it’s listed as a “place”). The best countries for refugees were Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
What about the United States? Why wasn’t the United States on the list?
In its report card on refugee treatment, the US got an A for allowing refugees to work after they have been admitted through its borders. The US got another A for granting freedom of movement to refugees once they have been admitted. However, it’s not always so easy for refugees to be admitted into the US. The US got a D for arbitrary imprisonment of refugees, and an F for putting refugees in danger by forcing them back to their home countries in spite of dangers to them there, sending refugees to other nations where they were put in danger, or putting refugees in physical danger itself.
One of the strongest symbols of the United States is the Statue of Liberty, which bears a plaque with the offer: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” If we aren’t willing to make good on that promise, and improve our treatment of refugees and immigrants, then we Americans ought to at least be honest about it, and melt down the Statue of Liberty, refashioning the metal into something more appropriate for our nation’s attitude toward the world – barbed wire, for instance.