Creating a Welcoming Community for Refugees is Good for Maryland

December 29, 2016 by Ellen Hutton in Blog

Maryland has deep history of being a welcoming community for new immigrant populations. This is one way in which we’ve shown our compassion for families fleeing war-torn parts of the world, and this history has helped create the economically and culturally thriving community we have today.

Looking at one example, Syrian immigrants have a history of successfully integrating in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, which has one of the highest Syrian populations of metro areas around the country. This past success and local support system bodes well for the futures of Syrian refugees who recently arrived in Maryland, according to a new report.

Syrian refugees have faced years of war and potentially deadly journeys in search of safety. When seeking resettlement in the US, they go through what is often a nearly two-year screening process and in the meantime must put their lives on hold, unable to work or go to school. Research by the Center for American Progress and Fiscal Policy Institute offers hope to those seeking resettlement that the U.S. is a place where they will have the ability to have a good quality of life.

According to the report, Syrian immigrants who settled in the U.S. prior to the refugee crisis are earning high wages, starting businesses, and becoming well-integrated in their communities:

  • The median annual wage among Syrian immigrants is $52,000, compared to $36,000 for immigrants overall.
  • 27 percent of male Syrian immigrants hold advanced degrees, with many more holding undergraduate degrees.
  • 11 percent of Syrian immigrants own businesses, and median annual earnings from those businesses is $72,000
  • Among those who have been in the U.S. for 10 years or more, 57 percent speak English with a high level of competency.
  • 67 percent of Syrian immigrants who have been in the U.S. 10 years or more own their homes, compared with 68 percent of U.S.-born citizens.
  • 91 percent of those who have been in the U.S. for 20 years or more become naturalized citizens, compared with only 71 percent of immigrants overall.

This new research shows that Syrian immigrants are not only successfully integrating into U.S. society but are thriving and contributing to the economy. For Syrian refugees resettling in the U.S., it gives hope that they can establish new lives in strong communities.

As of Nov. 3, 466 Syrian refugees have moved into Maryland, in communities in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Baltimore City. The Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees, in conjunction with local resettlement agencies, including Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, International Rescue Committee, and Ethiopian Community Development Council, offers a range of programs to support newly arrived refugees. These programs offer temporary assistance to help refugees afford food and other essentials while they search for a job, as well as English language training, financial education, job search assistance, and health care. Many of Maryland’s resettlement agencies also take an active role in educating and in engaging the community in order to create a more accepting and nurturing environment for resettled refugees.

If the Syrian immigrants who preceded them are any indication, the Syrian refugees in Maryland will use the available programs to ensure that they are able to succeed financially in the future. With the support of existing Syrian immigrant communities and temporary assistance from Maryland’s resettlement programs, these refugees will be an asset to Maryland’s economy and culture, just like the immigrants from around the world who are already part of our community.