Working towards good: Refugees want jobs, and the economy wants workers

·2 min read

With a total of 517,000 new jobs created last month and total employment estimates revised up, the country now has the lowest unemployment rate in more than half a century.

The numbers cooled recession fears, and while some economists and policymakers fret that the robust labor gains are going to send us into an inflationary tailspin, inflation indicators have actually been trending positively even as hiring has remained robust. Perhaps some of the conventional wisdom about the need to bludgeon wage and job gains to suppress inflation isn’t so common-sense after all.

What is common sense is using a pool of available, ready and willing workers to fill a strong labor need. Thousands of asylum seekers are waiting a statutorily-required six months between when they make their applications and when they can be issued work authorization, languishing even as they beg for the opportunity to fill available jobs and support themselves as they wait for their proceedings to play out.

More broadly, hundreds of thousands of refugees around the world want nothing more than to come to the United States and reestablish lives here through hard work and entrepreneurship, both filling and creating jobs and growing the economy into a more prosperous one for the country as a whole. Yet a general lack of urgency from the Biden administration has left admissions low and left people in harm’s way instead of the relative safety and prosperity of the U.S.

There are some recent positive signs, like the State Department’s launch of a program allowing groups of private citizens to directly sponsor refugees. This should be just one of many initiatives to get the refugee pipeline reestablished. On some matters, it must be Congress to intervene, including undoing the silly wait time for asylum seekers to receive work authorization and perhaps, at long last, moving to reform employment immigration pathways.

We can do the right thing by those fleeing violence and persecution, and do right by our economy. Win-wins are rare in public policy, and this is one worth taking.