Redesigning the architecture of US Foreign Aid

Donald Trump is hardly the first U.S. president to call for bureaucratic reorganization to improve government efficiency and effectiveness. But his demand for disproportionate cuts in international spending, his attacks on multilateral cooperation, and his aversion to “soft power” make it clear that his agenda is to sideline, not strengthen, U.S. foreign policy institutions.

Thus when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced his intention to conduct a “complete and comprehensive review” of aid effectiveness, development advocates jumped to preempt what they feared might be a bid to dismantle the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by putting together proposals for evidence-based, results-oriented reform.

The first of those proposals is now in: a discussion draft of a new foreign aid architecture released by the co-chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN). The MFAN proposal would give the development agency control over the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), currently an independent agency, as well as the AIDS relief and refugee assistance programs now overseen by the State Department. The proposal would eliminate USAID’s regional bureaus and consolidate all development programs into five “centers” based on broad functional categories.

[Read full article]

Israeli aid for Syrians

Quietly, over the last year, hundreds of sick Syrian children and their chaperones have been whisked across enemy lines at dawn for treatment at clinics in Israel, slipping back home after dark. Truckloads of supplies have passed into Syrian villages through a gate in the sturdy security fence that Israel has constructed since Syria erupted into civil war, including stacks of flour, generators, half a million liters of fuel, construction materials, tons of shoes, baby formula, antibiotics and even a few vehicles and mules.

This week, the Israeli military revealed the scope of the humanitarian aid project, which it calls Operation Good Neighbor and which began in June 2016 along the Israeli-Syrian boundary on the Golan Heights. The aid project depends on an extraordinary level of cooperation between old foes on both sides of the decades-old armistice lines separating the Syrians and Israelis. Military officials say they coordinate directly with Syrian doctors and village leaders to gauge needs.

“The [humanitarian ] aid creates a positive awareness of Israel on the Syrian side,” said Col. Barak Hiram, the commanding officer of Israel’s 474 Golan Brigade, adding that it could lay the “first seeds” of some form of future agreement.

Most of the supplies are donated by Israeli and foreign nongovernmental organizations, while the Israeli government has footed the bill for medical treatment. According to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, a New York-based network of organizations involved in the aid effort, Israel has also become an efficient, if unlikely, staging area for Syrian aid groups operating abroad that, facilitated by the Israeli military, are now shipping goods into Syria through Israeli ports.

Georgette Bennett, who founded the Multifaith Alliance in 2013, is a Hungarian-born former refugee and the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

[New York Times]

Molly Melching : “I never went in and told them to change. I just gave them the information”

Molly Melching, a warm American in her 60s is the founder and chief executive officer of Tostan, a Senegalese nonprofit. Melching, standing tall in a flowing dress called a boubou, recalls how she came to Senegal in 1974 as a 24-year-old graduate student from Illinois. She thought she’d stay for six months to study Francophone African literature. Now, 43 years later, she’s still in Senegal after unexpectedly growing an organization that focuses on literacy, health, hygiene, community governance, and more.

Tostan’s core is a broad nonformal education program offered to villagers in a number of African countries. The classes use local African languages, reflecting Tostan’s collaborative approach. At least when Melching started out, this was in contrast to the attitude that most other development projects had–“we’re going to go in and show people they need this and they need that,” she says.

By Tostan’s tally, since the organization’s founding in 1991 more than 200,000 individuals have participated in its Community Empowerment Program, benefiting 3 million people. Tostan is known globally for alleviating poverty, as well as for helping to reduce child marriage and female genital cutting in Senegal. Other countries where the organization has operated include Somalia, Guinea, Mali, and Mauritania.

After Melching finished her graduate studies, she stayed to work with street children in Dakar. She created a youth center and developed children’s books and radio programs in local African languages. Eventually that evolved into working with impoverished people in rural areas.

As poor villagers in Senegal learned about health, sanitation, and conflict resolution, among other things, vaccination rates, use of mosquito nets, and school enrollment rose. Incidence of diseases such as malaria and AIDS dropped. Families that hadn’t spoken to each other in years started making amends after learning about conflict resolution, Melching says.

“People need to understand why they should want to change their behavior. I don’t go in telling them what to do,” Melching says. “I never went in and told them to change. I just gave them the information.”

[Christian Science Monitor]

Aid credibility figures at stake

Some of the world’s richest European countries spend billions at home that they report as “aid”, exploiting a loophole that enables them to cut vital development budgets.

Under current accounting rules, the costs of receiving refugees can count towards a donor country’s total overseas development assistance (ODA).

In 2016, leading donor countries reported $15.4 billion of domestic spending on refugees as ODA, a huge rise from $3.9 billion in 2012 and several times more than they spend on refugees abroad.

That’s also more than they spent on emergency aid in foreign countries, and more than three times the income of the UN refugee agency.

[Read full article]

Wealth distribution inequality

While Americans and much of the world fixate on such things as Donald Trump’s latest tweets, the plague of inequality continues to grow.

An analysis of 2016 data found that the poorest five deciles of the world population own about $410 billion in total wealth.

As of June 8, 2017, the world’s richest five* men owned over $400 billion in wealth. (* Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg.)

Thus, on average, each of these men own nearly as much as 750 million people.

International Rescue Committee: “Americans oblivious to overseas suffering”

The vast majority of Americans are “oblivious” to the fact that more than 20 million people are on the brink of starvation in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

A “staggering” 85 percent of Americans simply don’t know that these nations are facing such dire shortages of food and other necessary resources, IRC discovered.

Lack of awareness, however, does not imply deliberate lack of concern, IRC is quick to observe. Once Americans are briefed on the relevant facts, the organization notes, “the issue immediately rises to a top global concern.”

IRC goes on to note that “[n]ear-famine, which is affecting 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, is likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time,” implying that the media is at fault for not keeping such a crucial issue at the center of public discussion.

The survey also found that most Americans favor providing more humanitarian aid, not less, as President Donald Trump has proposed: 68% of registered voters agree that foreign aid from wealthy nations like the U.S. is needed now more than ever.

“Millennials [78% concerned] see humanitarian aid as a defining issue for their generation, and the United States,” IRC‘s report notes. “On nearly every measure tested in the poll, millennials are more concerned than other generations, believe it is a moral obligation for the U.S. to provide assistance, and are most willing to engage.”

 [Common Dreams]

Line up of 1,000 musical artists to play refugee solidarity concerts

Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds are producing a global concert series Give a Home, taking place in cities all over the world on 20 September 2017.

After joining the lineup of artists performing, Ed Sheeran said, “We all deserve a home, not just the memory of one. That’s why I’m proud to join Amnesty International and Sofar’s Give a Home campaign in raising awareness for the global refugee crisis and funds for Amnesty’s important work.”

Sheeran will play a Give a Home gig in Washington D.C., USA.   Playing alongside him will be Jean-Jean Bashengezi (‘JAJA’) a guitarist, singer and refugee who now lives in Washington. Bashengezi’s music draws influence from his roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was forced to flee in 1994 when his country descended into deadly conflict following the Rwandan genocide.

With more than 22 million people now forced to flee their home country, the aim of the ambitious concert series is to unite people in showing solidarity with refugees. The funds raised by the project will support Amnesty International’s work in documenting human rights abuses and violations against refugees and pushing governments to find a sustainable solution to the refugee crisis.

Give a Home will see music fans around the world open up their homes to host intimate concerts in more than 60 countries worldwide.

[Amnesty International]

EU helps Peru respond to widespread flooding

Peru has recently experienced the worst floods in decades. The Andean country’s arid desert coast was inundated by torrential rains battering Peru between December and March, costing 107 lives and leaving more than 170, 000 people homeless so far.

Most rivers have overflowed along the 2500 kilometre Pacific coast, and 24 of the country’s 25 regions were severely affected.

“Peruvian rivers are currently estimated to be discharging their highest volume of water in more than 200 years,” said Boris Teunis, an EU Civil Protection expert in hydrology, quoting weather forecasts based on hydrological models developed by the European Commission’s Global Flood Awareness System. This severe disruption of usual weather patterns is caused by El Niño, the abnormal warming of Pacific Ocean waters which creates storms and subsequent flooding.

The EU has disbursed €1 million in emergency humanitarian aid, deployed civil protection experts and facilitated European donations in kind, including life-saving water pumps from Spain and France to assist those most affected in Peru’s northern provinces.

Thanks to an initial contribution of €250 000 from the European Commission, the EU humanitarian partner CARE was able to dispense emergency kits. In addition to handing out necessity items (such as buckets and water purification tablets), the EU’s humanitarian partners on the ground are supporting local authorities in assessing damages and risks to the population. Beyond the immediate needs of victims they fear the onset of a health crisis as stagnating waters create an ideal breeding ground for the vectors of zika, malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

[European Commission’s Directorate-General for … Humanitarian Aid Operations]

Former refugee: “Refugees will contribute to society”

In the 1980’s, faced with a swelling number of arrivals and growing reluctance from western governments to maintain resettlement opportunities, governments in Southeast Asia threatened pushbacks. In response, the multilateral Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) was signed in 1989, bringing together commitments made by countries of origin, asylum and resettlement.

Saigon-trained architect Thanh Dang was among 63 people who packed onto a boat to leave Viet Nam in June 1989. After a week at sea, the crowded vessel reached Indonesia, where Dang ended up in the Galang refugee camp. He was ‘screened in’ as a refugee and subsequently resettled to the United States, where he became an architectural designer working on schools and medical facilities in Atlanta, Georgia.

Looking back on the life that the program gave him, he makes an impassioned plea to the international community and ordinary citizens grappling with today’s multiple refugee crises.

“Put yourself in the refugee’s position. They are just normal people. I don’t think anybody wants to uproot their lives and face an uncertain future if they don’t have to,” he said.

“If you give them a chance to rebuild their lives, refugees will contribute to society where they live. Please don’t be afraid of them, and welcome them.”

[Read full UNHCR article]

The uncertain fate of Christians in Iraq

When Saddam Hussein was in charge, some 1.3 million Christians lived in Iraq. Today that figure is believed to be only 200,000.

Located some 35 kilometers southeast of Mosul along the Nineveh plains,  Qaraqosh was once considered the cradle of Christianity in Iraq, its history stretching back to biblical times. Before Islamic State invaded, Qaraqosh was home to Iraq’s largest Christian community.  40,000 people lived here until three years ago –no other city in the country was home to so many Christians. Now liberated after three years of occupation, little remains and former residents are considering whether it’s worth rebuilding in a country with an unclear future.

A local priest, Father Roni, has made it his task to resuscitate Qaraqosh. “We have to bury the dead so life can return,” he says. The bodies of 11 murdered people lie unburied at the cemetery. Some have been here so long that their faces are no longer recognizable.

Around half of the residents of Qaraqosh have left Iraq, with about 40 Christian families heading abroad each week to places like France, Jordan, Australia–anywhere but here, a region that doesn’t hold much of a future for them.

Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, they were at least halfway safe. As a Sunni Muslim, Hussein was himself part of a minority in the country and he formally incorporated the Christians into the state apparatus as part of his efforts to consolidate power. But their situation deteriorated after the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq. Despite the Americans’ claims of being liberators, the chaos they created further fomented the hatred many Iraqis had for Christians.

The province of Nineveh, where the Christians found refuge, is one of the most ethnically diverse in Iraq. In addition to Christians, it is also home to Yazidis, Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds. As such, it is considered a test case for how the divided country might coalesce once again after the fall of Islamic State. It would cost $10 million (€9 million) to rebuild Qaraqosh, but no one knows where the money might come from. And coexistence is little more than a vision.

 [Der Spiegel]

120,000 children return to Mosul with their families

Mosul’s years-long nightmare seemingly ended last week: On July 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed the full liberation the city.

On July 13, US presidential envoy Brett McGurk told a Coalition meeting in Washington that military experts consider the Mosul campaign “one of the most difficult military operations since World War II.” The danger to Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga during the nine-month offensive came not only from snipers and waves of suicide attackers, but also booby-traps, mostly mines laid throughout the city by fleeing Islamic State militants. Nina Seecharan, Iraq director for the British charity Mines Advisory Group, said in a statement on July 14 that the organization has not seen landmines used on this scale in 20 years.

Mosul’s liberation came at a high cost: 80 percent of the city, which traces its history back to 401 BC, lies in ruins.  Mosul’s returning residents now also have to contend with the hidden threat of landmines and other ad-hoc explosive devices Islamic State left for them.

Nevertheless, the agency said Moslawis are eager to leave camps set up for internally displaced people, and return to what is left of their homes. An UNICEF spokesperson said 223,925 people have already returned to Mosul.

“Even though the fighting has ended, the rebuilding of children’s lives has only just begun. They will need physical and psychological care, and the swift restoration of all basic services including education and safe drinking water,” UNICEF spokesperson Sharon Behn Nogueira said.


Can foreign aid projects help improve national security?

The overseas aid budget is coming under attack, both in the UK and the USA. But that shortsighted view does not take into account how working together to help communities suffering under the shadow of terrorism can actually help us combat extremism.

Poverty, poor health and global security concerns all come together in north-west Pakistan. The region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has hosted large numbers of internally displaced peoples for decades, largely refugees from Afghan conflicts. Many live in camps or work as laborers on brick kilns. It is in this challenging part of the world that an interesting example of partnership working between the UK and Pakistan is taking place that shows a way towards improving the well-being and economic prospects of the population. And we argue it may also, in a small way, assist in improving global security by enhancing local stability.

The initiative we worked on was a collaboration between a UK-based charity, The Abaseen Foundation and its partner NGO in Pakistan. This UK charity raises funds for health, education and development work in this region. An independent review of the project noted the “enormous impact” it had in providing access to previously absent health services for marginalized peoples and – importantly – thoroughly engaging the support of the community to create a sustainable legacy.

Despite the fact that projects such as this one demonstrate the value of well-managed aid in developing sustainable local resources, the very idea of overseas aid is vulnerable to political posturing that denies its value or discredits spending at times of austerity at home. Such calls can be even more shrill when the beneficiaries are in distant lands that are riven with conflict and appear to be at the forefront of exporting terrorism and anti-Western sentiments.

We believe that success stories like this offer a challenge to the rhetoric surrounding the future of overseas aid. A case can be made that spending on aid rather than war may be more productive for peace and security. The work of the charity may be some sort of antidote to alienation – promoting and capitalizing on shared affinities for a more internationalist and less insular outlook.

[The Conversation]

The best countries in the world to be an immigrant

A new ranking of the best countries to be an immigrant has placed Sweden in the top spot, closely followed by Canada, Switzerland, Australia and Germany. The United States, a country which was largely founded through mass immigration, came in seventh.

U.S. News and World Report, which compiled the ranking, said it looked at measures such as economic stability, income equality and job markets to create its list, using a special survey of the opinions of more than 21,000 business leaders and other elites, as well as members of the public.

Eric Gertler, co-chairman of U.S. News and the New York Daily News, said, “With the recent spotlight on immigration in the U.S. and abroad, we wanted to dive into its potential benefits and challenges on a country’s perceived economic status in the world.”

Specifically, immigration in Sweden became the subject of an unusual public debate in the U.S. this year, with President Trump suggesting at a rally in February that immigration had led to problems in Sweden and that the country should serve as a model for how the U.S. should not allow some immigrants in. “They took in large numbers and they are having problems like they never thought possible,” Trump said, sparking a flurry of angry responses from Swedes.

Sweden had become a popular destination for refugees from Africa and the Middle East over the past few years, taking in more per capita than any other European nation at the height of the migrant influx in 2015. Sweden wasn’t the only Nordic country to fare well–Norway, Finland and Denmark also took places in the top 10, largely due to favorable perceptions found in the survey about their economies and commitment to income equality. Other countries, such as Canada and Switzerland, were given positive marks not only for their economy but also integration measures for immigrants, such as language training.

[Washington Post]

Volunteers helping Syrian refuges in southern Turkey

This trip to the border was again a heart-wrenching trip.

Visiting several homes for amputees and victims of war left us stunned. This new center we visited is run by a single man, Abdulrahman, who with his own meager savings has pieced together two wooden dorms on a little plot of land for victims of the civil war. Thirty to forty people live in these little dorms, with separate parts for men and women.

Meeting the victims of the horrific bombing of Aleppo moved us all to tears. Seeing the blinding orange/white flashes of the bombs over Aleppo on your TV is one thing, but to meet the survivors of those flashes is something else. It adds a whole new dimension to the horrors of war, and will never leave you the same. We all were nearly speechless and incapable of even talking about this for days.

What do you say when you meet people so badly burnt, a mother with no legs, young men without arms or legs, how do you respond? Some of the worst cases cannot leave their rooms, or even their beds without great difficulty.

We delivered several truckloads of aid to families, and to a large orphanage. The orphanage has 24 rooms, and at times one room may house three mothers and their children.

The caretakers of the orphans told us that they were in desperate need of money for the rent before the 1st of the month or they would be thrown on the streets. One of our student volunteers gave his last 20 liras.The next day, I checked our mail and thankfully we can pay their rent for a few months. We can’t express how overjoyed we are, and they are, for your gifts, and helping us to adopt this family. We were elated, as it would be unimaginable to see these kids on the streets. They are in such difficulty, yet they recently received another mother and child, who had just crossed the border after fleeing Raqqa. Incredible!

The residents are eager for friendship, human warmth and radiate when you come visit them and treat them with dignity. They want you to stay, drink tea, and in their difficult situation, they will offer you a meal. How could we even think about complaining of our long hours in the heat when you meet those who have lost all?

Humanitarian needs continue as Mosul reaches final stages of military offensive

Nine months after the start of the military operations in October 2016, Mosul has been retaken from ISIL fighters, putting an end to months of bitter fighting that killed thousands and forced about one million out of the city, more than initially expected.

ACTED has been mobilized on Mosul emergency response since day 1, relying on its historical presence in the country for almost 15 years as well as months of contingency planning and preparation, to provide multi-sectoral support to vulnerable displaced people who fled the fighting in Mosul city and Ninewa governorate.

In recent months, up to 8,500 people fled the affected areas every day, as the offensive to retake the Old City and the remaining West Mosul neighborhoods under ISIL control reached its final stages.

ACTED, liaising with other humanitarian partners and coordination structures, continues to respond to the needs of newly displaced and extremely vulnerable Iraqis. Support to displaced people includes, water, hygiene and sanitation interventions, shelter and non-food items support, as well as camp coordination and camp management operations and child protection services.


Changing lives two feet at a time

In a village in rural Liberia, a long and muddy road from anywhere, I came across a grandma, a mom and a baby daughter all afflicted by clubfoot. This is a common birth defect in which one or both feet are grotesquely turned inward. We don’t see it in the U.S. or Europe because doctors correct it soon after birth, and clubfoot alumni include athletic superstars like Mia Hamm and Kristi Yamaguchi.

Yet here, as in most of the world, kids with clubfoot weren’t treated and grew up as outcasts. About one child in 800 worldwide is born with clubfoot, and in poor countries they are left to hobble on the sides of their feet; unable to work, they may become beggars.

In this village, clubfoot used to be a life sentence: The grandma, Yahin-yee Korwee, never went to school, nor did her daughter, Hannah Cooper, 26. Then Cooper had her own daughter 11 months ago, also with clubfoot (it’s partly hereditary).

Yet this baby had her feet fixed. This is possible with a simple nonsurgical treatment involving a series of plaster casts to guide the foot into the proper position. This approach, called the Ponseti method, is routine in Western countries and is increasingly available in poor countries as well, through aid groups like MiracleFeet, based in North Carolina, and Cure, based in Pennsylvania.

I wish that skeptics of humanitarian aid could have seen the baby get care from MiracleFeet and emerge with feet as good as anyone else’s. Now she’ll be able to walk and run, go to school and hold a job, support herself and her country.

And the total cost? Less than $500 for transforming a life.

 [Excerpts of New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof]

Migrant crisis threatens to overwhelm Italy

Europe’s unrelenting migrant crisis is threatening to overwhelm Italy, even as the tide of flimsy boats washing up on Greece’s shores has slowed to a trickle.

More than 85,000 people fleeing poverty and violence have risked the perilous Mediterranean crossing to reach Italy this year, a 20% increase over the same period in 2016, according to United Nations figures. At least 2,150 others have died trying.

Most of these migrants come from sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNHCR, the top two nationalities arriving in Italy by sea in 2016 were Nigerians (21%) and Eritreans (11%). Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is facing its worst economic crisis in decades and a deadly uprising by the militant group Boko Haram, while Eritrea has a notoriously repressive government that migrants accuse of imposing a system of forced labor and governing by fear.

Italian officials, who have been among the more welcoming in Europe, threatened last week to close their ports to rescue ships operated by humanitarian groups that weren’t flying the Italian flag unless they received more help from other EU members.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said,  “Italy has never ducked its commitments and it does not intend to do so. But he added, “We are under pressure, and we ask for a concrete contribution from the Europeans.”

[Los Angeles Times]

International NGOs in China impacted by recent law

Some international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in China are suspending operations, cancelling events and losing partnerships in the country six months after the government introduced a law requiring them to register with the police.

To register, the groups must first approach a government ministry from a provided list and ask it to become a “supervisory body” that will vet financial and operational details of the NGO’s work before filing them with the Ministry of Public Security.

The majority of the dozen NGOs approached by Reuters for this article say the law, which came in on Jan 1, has been a bureaucratic nightmare and appears to be aimed at making it more difficult for them to operate in China. Some NGOs say the ministries are often reluctant to take on the sponsor’s role.

Beijing says the law boosts Chinese state support for foreign NGOs and only need worry a handful of illegal groups whose political and religious work harms China’s national security.

The Chinese government estimates there are around 7,000 overseas NGOs in mainland China; academics who have studied the sector suggest about 1,000 of these have a permanent presence in China and so need to register. According to the Ministry of Public Security database, only 139 representative offices of foreign NGOs have been registered so far.

When foreign NGOs limit their operations in China it can not only curb the direct flow of funds into projects but can also hurt their Chinese non-profit partners. Many of these partnerships have been instrumental in establishing building blocks of modern Chinese society in areas such as education and healthcare.


Refugees bring huge benefits to the nations in which they settle

Lost in the debate over the Trump travel ban, which has now partially gone into effect, is a vital fact about refugees. Many of them bring huge benefits to the nations in which they settle — because time and again, starting up businesses is a part of starting over for those finding a new home.

In Canada, one of the country’s most talked-about — and sought-after — sweets companies is the product of Assam Hadhad who launched Peace by Chocolate out of his kitchen in his adopted home in Nova Scotia after a missile struck his factory in Syria and his family finally decided to flee the danger.

The Canadian catering company Syrian Cuisine Made With Love has a similar story of a family thrown out of its own country by the conflict’s violence and now creating growth and opportunity for others by feeding Canadians — and hiring other Syrians.

Likewise, in the United Kingdom, one cheese company is winning fans — including among the country’s royal family and the nation’s prime minister — as it provides a living to Syrians who’ve lost everything to the war.

Turkey is now home to roughly three million Syrian refugees. Only 10% of this group lives in refugee camps; nearly all are working to find homes in cities and battling high rents and stiff competition for work in a very tight labor market full of people seeking to make a living. Today, Syrians are leading the list of foreign nationals launching businesses there.

A recent report from the non-profit organization Building Markets finds that since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, Syrians in Turkey have started more than 6,000 new companies. If you add in informal businesses that aren’t registered with the government, that number would top 10,000. This year alone Syrians are on track to start 2,000 new enterprises. On average, the companies in the Building Markets study offer jobs to nine people — with close to a third of the companies saying they plan to expand.

[Read full CNN article]

Refugee entrepreneurship in the United States

Near Washington DC, Syrian refugee Nader Briman is sewing wedding dresses. And his wife is cooking shawarma and meat pies. The Brimans’ new community stands to gain from their arrival.

One study out of Cleveland in 2013 noted that “in advanced economies, once refugees have adjusted to their new life after resettlement, they can provide substantial contributions to the workforce and economic development in the long run at the regional level.”

Other American entrepreneurs have tread a path reminiscent of the Brimans and made a difference not just for their neighborhoods, but their new nation. Hamdi Ulukaya came to the United States in 1994 to escape escalating political tensions in Turkey, where his status as a politically active Kurd — albeit one who disavowed violence — earned him the attention of Turkish police.  Just over a decade later, he launched Chobani, a category-creating Greek yoghurt company that today is America’s biggest-selling yogurt brand, earning $2 billion in annual revenues.

Today close to a third of Ulukaya’s workers at Chobani’s Idaho plant are refugees. Or newly arrived Americans. As Ulukaya has said, “the minute a refugee has a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

The same is true of former refugees like Google (GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin, Intel (INTC, Tech30) co-founder Andy Grove, or WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum — some of the world’s most innovative and successful businesses simply wouldn’t exist if they had been turned away in their time of need.