St. Louis’ sluggish, often stagnant economy has been made worse by President Donald Trump’s administration’s policy of choking off refugee resettlement, according to the CEO of St. Louis’s International Institute.
Appearing on The Jaco Report, Anna Crosslin, who’s been president and CEO of the institute since 1978, noted that the number of refugees being re-settled in St. Louis dropped from about 1,100 in the last year of President Barack Obama’s administration to fewer than 200 last year. Because many of those refugees are college-educated professionals or business people, Crosslin said, the loss to St. Louis’ flat-lined economy has been significant.
“We have since 1999 helped about 500 refugee- and immigrant-owned businesses get a start in the community,” Crosslin said. “And the St. Louis Regional Chamber has estimated that value at about 180 million dollars of positive economic impact in the community.”
Crosslin added: “Refugees and immigrants actually help build economies, they don’t take away from economies. The challenges St. Louis has are that we have a limited pie and what we keep trying to do is divide that pie smaller and smaller instead of trying to make a larger pie.”
In the last year of Obama’s administration, the United States accepted roughly 85,000 refugees, 1,100 of whom were re-settled in St. Louis. The Trump administration has cut that number to 35,000 a year, with 180 coming to the Gateway City. White House adviser Stephen Miller has suggested Trump may cut the number of refugees accepted to zero next year.
To be recognized as a refugee, a person has to present evidence that they face a good chance of death or bodily harm in their home country, usually a war zone. Refugees have to pass through 13 different inspection by the United Nations — a process that can take years — before they’re certified as refugees eligible for resettlement.
But the Trump White House has refused to accept any refugees from nine majority-Muslim countries — including Syria and Somalia — and has drastically reduced the number of others accepted as refugees. Crosslin said that had wrecked the refugee resettlement program in St. Louis.
“The totally sad part of this was that these were family members that people here in St Louis, refugees who had already arrived here, were waiting for, to join them,” she said. “These individuals had already been through the 13 vetting steps. They were basically waiting for their planes in a lot of cases and whammy, it was all over because we simply excluded them.”
The lost economic gains from fewer refugees in St. Louis are borne out by past experience, such as Bosnian Muslim refugees’ revitalizing entire South Side neighborhoods. Academic studies also document immigrants’ economic contributions. A 2013 study by then-St. Louis University economist Jack Strauss showed that immigrants and refugees not only do not take jobs from either white or black native-born Americans, but that members of the area’s refugee population are 30 percent more likely to own their own businesses eventually than the native-born population.
Crosslin said there’d been another change in the Trump era besides lost potential economic vitality for a city that desperately needs it. Her office has fielded an upsurge in reports of harassment of St. Louis’ refugee children at school by other children.
“Now what’s happening is that kids, like adults, are feeling like they have permission to be able to say things that they wouldn’t have before,” Crosslin said. “Because they hear it all the time at home, they hear it on TV, they’re inundated with all of this debating we do very loudly as adults.”