Bill Becker

What is a Refugee?

Over the past two years, Americans from every part of the country have responded enthusiastically to the call to welcome Afghan families, Ukrainians displaced by war, and others fleeing persecution. On Tuesday, June 20, 2023, coinciding with World Refugee Day, the first refugees to be privately sponsored by Americans through the Welcome Corps arrived in the United States. I’ve written about the Welcome Corps before…it’s a wonderful  program. I just don’t understand why there isn’t a similar program for our “refugees.”

What is a refugee anyway? If you Google “What is a refugee?” you’ll go down the proverbial rabbit hole, but the most agreed upon definition is this..A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. OK, have you heard of an IDP? It stands for Internally Displaced Person and is often discussed in the same conversations about refugees.

An internally displaced person, or IDP, is someone who has been forced to flee their home but never cross an international border. These individuals seek safety anywhere they can find it—in nearby towns, schools, settlements, internal camps, even forests and fields. Sounds an awful like a homeless person right? That’s a rhetorical question because they are homeless. They don’t have a home!

So what’s the difference between a traditional refugee (my terminology) and someone who is homeless in the U.S.? It’s perception. As I mentioned in my article. “The Homeless Aren’t Cool Enough” it’s all about perception. How people perceive not helping a homeless individual (it’s their fault or choice) vs helping a refugee from a war torn country (look at me and what I did). The difference is so many people think the homeless are in their situation by choice. There recently was a big thread about this on LinkedIn.

This isn’t a zero sum game (that’s poker), we can do both! I am working on a program that I plan on announcing before the end of the year. It’s time we help our neighbors.