Refugees Need Help, Not Charity.
Today I helped a married refugee couple at the border. I didn’t give them charity, I helped them with translation to get their documents from the Border Patrol. After we got the documents, they treated me to dinner and their story (which was fascinating but for a different article). I can imagine that some people would ask how could they do this? How could they afford to pay for dinner? Well, it's because they needed help, not charity. They needed my help translating at the border to get their documents. They were not incapable, simply lacked language skills, for now. I helped them, and they were capable of getting back to Las Vegas where they are helped by another family with housing until they can get work and be on their way. They are not given charity, they are given help (which is why they reciprocate to their hosts through cooking massive feasts and helping in any way they can).
I tend to see people making two mistakes in their view of refugees (Ukrainian or otherwise) and both mistakes assume that they are helpless and poor. The first mistake is out of misplaced compassion: people think Ukrainians should be kept from coming to the US to shield them from the difficulties of US life (as happened with the Jews and the exclusion act of 1924). The second mistake is out of fear as people believe refugees are assumed to need financial help for the rest of their lives because they are seen as poor and helpless. Both mistakes really are out of a misunderstanding assuming that the refugees are poor, but this is where they are mistaken.
Refugees are not poor, they simply lack money or a specific basic skill. Poor people are incapable of making money and learning, and so they require charity. The Ukrainian refugees who come to the US may lack money but they are not poor and they are very capable of learning. The refugees I know (including my parents) are strong and resourceful and they will succeed, they just need a little help.
The couple that I met has four kids. Before coming to the US they battled corruption and Ukrainian crime, they owned multiple businesses and property. They had land, ran farms, and made good money. They faced adversity from corruption and war, but this doesn’t make them incapable.
Their lack of English doesn’t make them stupid. For some reason many who work with refugees assume they will never learn English, they will never be able to understand the American system. In spite of sometimes being immigrants themselves or dealing with thousands of immigrants over the course of their life in America, these people behave in the same way each time they see a newly arrived immigrant.
Refugees including the Ukrainians come to the United States not to steal wealth or drain benefits, for that, they can go to Canada or Europe. No, they come to actualize themselves. As one young Ukrainian by the name of Alex said to me “in Europe I will forever be an immigrant, an outsider who will never be given the opportunities and positions that other Europeans get, here I just have to work hard.” Another Ukrainian refugee Sergei said to me “in Ukraine people say: if you can be ok in Ukraine, you will be rich in America. Because in Ukraine anytime you start to become successful, someone cuts you down,” something one doesn’t have to deal with in the US.
I often see people who want to offer refugees housing or work for which the Ukrainians are overqualified or don’t need. When the refugees politely decline, they are angry and spiteful. The people who offer charity sometimes do so out of good intentions and sometimes out of a need to feel good that comes from being able to help a “poor person”. But the Ukrainians did not come to the US for charity, they are resourceful people who come for the opportunity, something that the United States is unique in the world.
In China or Japan, foreigners are forever foreigners as are immigrants in England and France. They can live there but they are never equal, they are rarely offered the jobs that the natives get in spite of their high qualifications and talents. In America on the other hand, a foreigner may not always be liked, but in America, hard work and talent are recognized and rewarded. This is why they come and this is why they succeed. This is why in spite of the fact that the husband spent 19 days in a 12x12 cell with 15 other people without a blanket, in a cold room without shower and having to use a toilet in sight of everyone else, he still said “pinch me, I can’t believe I’m in America.” This is what people are willing to go through to have a fair shake at life.
People simply do not realize that the lazy and unmotivated never make the effort, never risk the jail sentence that some get when they arrive, never risk the large ticket price it requires to get to the US, and never risk the ego hit of arriving in a new place and without the ability to speak or read.
These people are fearless and they will succeed. To succeed they don’t need charity, they just need the help we give to all refugees, and then they just need us to get out of their way as they leave us in their dust.
There are currently more than 200 Ukrainians in Mexico who are fleeing the Russian genocide. Many have lost their businesses and family in Ukraine. If you’d like to help them start over, sign up as a sponsor on www.UAsponsor.com. You don’t have to host or give them charity, you just need to offer a hand that lets them start at life again.