CT leaders discuss impact of refugees on state economy


Days after the Supreme Court allowed parts of President Donald Trump's travel ban to move forward, a group of state and academic leaders met to discuss the impact refugees have on Connecticut’s economy.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has touted Connecticut as a leader in accepting refugees.

At a panel discussion at Yale University on Wednesday, people said they believe immigrants and refugees are making major contributions to the economy that may be surprising to some.

“We welcome refugees to save their lives and that should be enough,” said Chris George, executive director of IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services).

When the Supreme Court recently allowed parts of President Trump's travel ban to move forward, the debate surrounding the social impact of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries intensified.

“About half of Fortune 500 companies in this country are started by immigrants,” said Yale Economics Professor Mushfiq Mobarak.

Mobarak says refugees do often have a negative financial impact for a few years after arriving, but in the long run, they add millions of dollars and jobs to the economy.

“Immigrants are much more likely to start businesses than native-born Americans, and this is a country that was built from immigrants over many generations,” Mobarak said.

Founder of a new nonpartisan advocacy organization called Beacon and Main, Juliana Hess, hopes the discussion helps people have a more nuanced view of immigrants and refugees. Hess is a Colombian immigrant.

“We're here to roll up our sleeves and get to work we're so grateful for the opportunity,” Hess said.

Malloy was a panelist and said he believes the reason some people have a two-dimensional view of refugee is that of highly charged political rhetoric, some of which originates in the White House.

“We have a bunch of boorish politicians who say the wrong thing, for what they perceive as the right reason. Right now we have one of them as president,” Malloy said.

One thing the panel did not delve into was security, which is why President Trump says he's instituted the ban. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue this fall.

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