Pastor Juliet Liu: Four Decades After Saigon Fell, We Still Need Refugees as Much as They Need Us

Thousands of Syrian refugees walk in order to cross into Turkey on June 14, 2015, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, in southeastern Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

(Juliet Liu is the editorial director at Missio Alliance and the pastor of Life on the Vine church in Long Grove, Ill. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.)

The day Saigon fell, on April 30, 1975, my mother and her family knew they could not stay in their native Vietnam. They joined the tens of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians who had evacuated the country to avoid massacre by the communist Viet Cong, who had captured Saigon.

As refugees, my relatives began life anew in Lafayette, Ind., where a local white evangelical church welcomed them and helped them adapt to a different culture. One Vietnam War veteran even shared his home with my mom’s family for a few months. His son later told me that this act of kindness helped his father gain a sense of purpose after surviving the trauma of war.

My grandparents went on to become homeowners, taxpayers and active volunteers at church, often cooking meals for new moms or sick people. They worked full time at local schools and sent their children to college. All of their kids grew up to be successful contributors to society. My aunt, a pharmacist, currently helps research cures for cancer at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Through it all, my grandparents remained friends with the Vietnam War veteran; he even accompanied them to their citizenship ceremony in the early 1980s. He’s in all the pictures.

I grew up hearing these stories, which inspired my own deep Christian faith and my belief that our country only stands to gain from welcoming refugees. It set me on a course to pursue my master’s degree in divinity and become the pastor of a church in the Chicago suburbs.

The church I lead is mostly white and evangelical, but we defy the media stereotype; we understand that welcoming refugees is a biblical calling.

It’s also a proud American tradition, which is why the president’s decision to trim our country’s refugee cap in 2019 feels like a terrible blow. This year, we’re facing the lowest cap ever — just 30,000 people who will be resettled on our shores — at a time when the number of displaced people in the world has reached an all-time high — including 25.4 million refugees in 2017, according to a United Nations report.

Refugees need us. But we also need them. Just as my grandparents became vital community members, refugees as a group contribute positively to our economy. The entrepreneurship rate among refugees outpaces other immigrants and U.S.-born people, according to New American Economy. Refugees earned $77.2 billion in household income and contributed $20.9 billion in taxes in 2015.

Despite the current political rhetoric that paints refugees as criminals, an NAE analysis of FBI crime statistics found that, in 9 out of 10 cities that received the most refugees between 2006 and 2015, crime rates went down.

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Source: Religion News Service