More than 60 million people have been displaced from their homes because of conflict around the world – officials say that number is unprecedented.
SMU hosted a conversation about the global refugee crisis Tuesday evening. Former First Lady Laura Bush was among more than 150 people who attended.
David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. His organization helped resettle more than 900 refugees in Dallas last year. He told the audience that every 24 seconds, one more person becomes a refugee.
“The statistics are almost numbing," he said. "Stalin said that one person death is a tragedy and a million people's death is a statistic. The danger is that refugees go from being a tragedy to a statistic because of the numbers. We have to beware the dehumanization of this population.”
The conversation comes as President Trump’s revised travel ban is on hold. The ban would affect travel from six majority-Muslim countries. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says there may be support for the ban in Texas, but he doesn’t think following popular opinion is always the right way to go when it comes to refugees.
“We’re talking about children who are six, maybe 10 years old who’ve been stuck in holding pattern refugee centers for two years before they get here," Jenkins said. "When you see that, I don’t think you can look at polling or what the majority thinks because the first and foremost job for all of us is service and service to everybody.”
Refugee Services of Texas has helped settle more than 1,200 refugees across the state since September. The International Rescue Committee helped resettle more than 900 refugees in Dallas last year. Over 70 percent of these refugees, according to the IRC, are women and children coming to join family members who already live in the U.S.
Since the U.S. refugee program was formalized in 1980, the IRC points out, there has never been a deadly terrorist act committed by a refugee.
Still, across the state, people have concerns about refugee resettlement.
“There’s a lot of fear about this issue,” said audience member Rick Chalk. During the question and answer portion of the the presentation at SMU, Chalk went to the microphone up to share his experience as a resident of the small town of Groesbeck, an hour-and-a-half south of Dallas.
“I’m on board with [resettlement], but I have family and friends who have legitimate questions and I don’t know how to answer," he said.
Miliband said answers to common questions about the vetting system can be found rescue.org.
“It’s completely legitimate for people to ask questions," Miliband said. "We want a good security vetting system."