I propose that the USA sail a bunch of naval ships over to Europe and Turkey. We load up one million Syrian refugees and bring them back to the United States.
But what do we do with them then?
Note: Some of the ideas I am proposing should not only apply to the refugees, but should also be made available to the currently unemployed in our country who have been unable to find work.
Housing: The government works with banks. Currently banks own a ton of foreclosed properties on which they are losing money. The government, along with some NGOs, works out a rent structure. Basically the refugee (or unemployed) family is placed in the house for a reasonable rent that doesn't make a profit for the bank but eliminates their losses. The government is paying this rent.
Food/clothing/life: In addition to the rent, the government is providing each family in the program with a stipend. The total value of the stipend (with the rent included as part of the total) should be about a gross of $800/week. Of course income taxes are taken out of this amount. (I know, the government taking taxes on money from the government? But that's the way it works now, so it should for these families as well.) The amount should be adjusted though depending on how many adults in the family are working in one of the programs below.
English: Every refugee is required to attend rigorous courses in English as a second language. The government will work with NGOs, universities, and colleges who already have such programs to get the refugees enrolled. By August/September 2016, every school age child who comes over on this program needs to have enough English ability to attend public school. The adults may take longer. But I believe that in two years, they could have enough ability in English to function well without translation assistance.
Work: We are not giving all of this away for free. And remember, this part applies to Americans who are unemployed as well. Depending on aptitude, physical ability, and years left in the workforce, those enrolled in my proposed program will be split into different tasks.
Many will be required to work on infrastructure projects. The United States has crumbling infrastructure. Our bridges are becoming unsafe. Our water mains are old and bursting in many cities. We need to lay fiber optics throughout the nation. I'm sure you can find plenty of infrastructure projects in your own community that desperately need work. My program will provide the labor for these projects. Yes, we will need many translators in the first year, but a ready supply of unskilled labor is being provided to municipalities, states, and the federal executive branch. It's time for a comprehensive update of our infrastructure, with the labor costs managed ahead of time. This will make it more affordable for various governments to move forward with these needed repairs.
Others, who have the aptitude and interest, are going to be enrolled in nursing schools. We have a critical shortage of nurses already. And as the Baby Boomers reach the ages where more and more medical care will be necessary, an already strained system is going to be overloaded. We will provide unemployed Americans and new refugees with the educations needed to obtain BSN degrees. We're not guaranteeing anyone a job at the end of it, but getting the degree without debt will at least not put them into a disadvantageous position. And given the many dire projections about our health care workforce, there should be jobs for them when they finish. Also, by that point, their language skills should pose no barriers.
I realize that I am not giving every individual every possible alternative they might prefer. But if someone has the skills to get a different job and make the money themselves that they were getting in the stipend, great! They can continue to contribute to the economy and work their way to becoming citizens. And while not every option is available, this is an option by which people can move to a place where they are safe from war and bombings and provide food and shelter for their families.
After four or five years, I hope this program will come to a natural end. Hopefully we have addressed the many infrastructure problems we have. And by that time, those in the program will have new work skills or degrees and be able to find other work and other accommodations. Maybe some of them can even buy the homes they were living in from the banks.
Okay, so obviously, there are some major objections to this proposal. Let me deal with those now. And I think you are going to gasp at #1.
- Erich, this is going to cost a lot! Yes, you are correct. But I have an idea to pay for it. First, Congress needs to pass a comprehensive infrastructure bill. This is true whether or not my program goes into effect. But second, before we put the plan into action we are going to make a deal with the European Union. Currently, they have way more refugees than they know what to do with. We are going to offer to take these one million refugees. We are even going to send our own ships over to Europe to get them. All the European nations need to do is to get the refugees to the ports. And in exchange, the European Union is going to pay the United States 100 billion dollars. (This number could change, but it covers the salaries being paid assuming about one quarter of the refugees are the working adults, the education costs, plus costs for transportation and other logistics.) Would the EU balk at that amount? I'm not sure they would. It is only $10,000 per person. And their current costs must easily be that.
- Erich, this will take a lot of resources. True, but the government would have to work together with NGOs, universities/colleges, and with private industries. Sometimes those partnerships haven't been perfect in the past. But in this case, it's win/win. The NGOs get to fulfill their missions with much of the cost being paid from the government. The universities and colleges are making money educating the refugees. And the private industries, like the construction industry, are getting lots of work.
- Erich, this seems politically unattainable in our current environment. Sadly, I don't know the way around that. We are in a shockingly xenophobic state at present. And our politicians are either falling into fear unbecoming of Americans, or they are pandering to pressures of prejudice among voters. They need to have the courage of their convictions, and I haven't yet figured out how to help them to do that. But maybe my plan has enough positive consequences that they can move past that.
So please, tell me, what are the other major objections to this idea? Or, if you like it, how do I move it forward? Do I write to congressmen? Do I start a petition? Your help would be greatly appreciated.