Nebraska has long demonstrated a welcoming spirit in accepting refugees fleeing instability and danger abroad. As recently as 2017, Nebraska led the nation in receiving refugees per capita. The Trump administration is now requiring states to give permission to receive new refugees, and Gov. Pete Ricketts has appropriately said “yes.”
That decision upholds Nebraska’s tradition of welcome. And as a practical matter, opening the door to refugees is eminently doable in Nebraska. The state has shown for decades that it has the capability to effectively manage the arrival of refugees. Nebraska service organizations, including Lutheran Family Services, the Refugee Empowerment Center and Catholic Social Services, have long demonstrated their expertise in such efforts.
Lincoln, in fact, is home to our country’s largest community of Yazidis, whose home territory in Iraq was besieged by Islamic State terrorists several years ago. The Yazidis form a vibrant part of the Lincoln community and are a sterling example of Nebraska’s ability to extend a hand of welcome to those fleeing brutality abroad.
Refugee resettlement also helps address Nebraska’s need for workers in communities across the state. “We receive phone calls from employers nearly every day,” said Amanda Kohler, director of the Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha.
In giving approval, Ricketts joined at least 24 governors, across partisan lines, who have given their approval for accepting refugees. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is one of the governors who has done so. So far, no governor has said “no.”
The Trump administration directive also says that localities must give permission for refugee settlement, with a deadline approaching. Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird both have signed letters giving their approval. So have the Douglas County Board and the City of La Vista.
Omaha is home to one of our country’s largest South Sudanese refugee populations, and the city also has significant numbers of refugees from Somalia and Myanmar, and smaller numbers from Afghanistan and Syria.
As the Trump administration has reduced the refugee numbers in recent years, Nebraska has seen its number of refugees fall from 1,441 in 2016 to 445 this year. Still, as reported by The World-Herald’s Henry Cordes, Nebraska continues to have a high per capita resettlement ranking, at No. 5. Iowa is No. 4.
Ricketts’ green light to refugee resettlement is the right move, enabling Nebraska to continue this commendable legacy.