Welcoming refugees is more than just the right thing to do

Erin’s Edit


By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

With recent headlines in the national news about refugees from Haiti and as Afghan refugees begin to arrive in St. Louis to create a new home here, it seems like a good time to remind everyone that our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths. 

Investing in refugees and immigrants is not only the moral thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do. Refugees and foreign-born immigrants offer a wide swath of different skills, enhance the local economy and add to the cultural fabric our nation. 

One doesn’t need to look any further for evidence of that than right outside their own front door here in St. Louis. 

In the 1990s, St. Louis resettled 70,000 Bosnians fleeing civil war. These refugees helped revitalize stagnant St. Louis city neighborhoods like Bevo Mill, and put down roots in South County. 

A 2020 report from the Brookings Institute shares that, on average, the introduction of immigrants into a labor market has little to no aggregate effect on locals’ wages and employment. In fact, this report stated, migrants and refugees who bring new skills and knowledge to the labor market can actually increase wages.

The same report stated that migrants don’t only contribute to the local economy as laborers, but also as business owners and entrepreneurs. According to the report, migrants are much more likely to engage in entrepreneurship than natives. In the United States, migrants make up 15 percent of the population yet represent 25 percent of entrepreneurs. 

The fact of the matter is, for both selfish and selfless reasons alike, our community and the country should continue to welcome foreign-born refugees. We’ve seen it in our own city that immigrants can help reverse depopulation trends and boost the local economy. 

And thanks to the hardwork of groups like the International Institute of St. Louis, the region’s largest refugees resettlement agency, refugees can become integrated and productive members of the community in just a matter of months. 

The success of the Bosnian community here in St. Louis speaks to the fact that embracing diversity and inclusion can lead to success. We continue to encourage both our local and statewide leaders, as well as our national leaders, to continue welcoming refugees and immigrants with open arms – both for their benefit and for ours.