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Gov. Brian Kemp smiles during his inaugural address in the McCamish Pavilion on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia. Kemp’s first duties as governor after his inauguration included swearing in other elected officials into office. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

On Sept. 26, the Trump administration announced a new rule in which any refugee settlement agency must receive written approval from the state and local officials where they wish to resettle refugees after June 2020. This has forced refugee settlement agencies to move quickly to receive approval from officials before the Jan. 21 deadline. Gov. Brian Kemp has not said yet  whether he will allow refugees to be settled in Georgia.

Though it could upset some conservatives, Kemp should allow refugee settlement agencies to resettle refugees to Georgia. Doing so would reinforce Georgia’s moral principles and could provide an economic boost.

Kemp may fear a political backlash for accepting refugees, but these concerns would be unfounded. Kemp campaigned on a platform of limiting the number of illegal immigration in Georgia, so he might fear taking a pro-immigrant stance. However, coming to the U.S. as a refugee is not illegal. Anyone designated as a refugee has gone through the refugee process outlined by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and can live in the U.S. legally. Further, over half of all Republican governors have already decided to provide written consent for resettlement programs. That other Republican governors feel comfortable with allowing refugees suggests that Kemp could accept refugees without sustaining much political backlash.

There are practical economic benefits to admitting refugees. A study of Congolese refugee camps in Rwanda in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that refugees increased annual real income in the host country by a greater amount than the cash aid they were given. Further, a study in Science Advances demonstrated that refugees had a net positive effect on government revenues and helped the macroeconomy as they became residents.

More importantly, refusing refugees would be immoral. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services define a refugee as someone who is not in the U.S.; is “of special humanitarian concern” to the U.S.; has shown that they have been persecuted or fear persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or affiliation with a social group; is not "firmly resettled" in another country and can be admitted to the U.S. The government processes these refugee applications, and therefore, anyone the government designates as a refugee will have a proven, important reason for coming here. Refugees come to the U.S. not to benefit off of our social programs but to escape persecution. If we were to turn our backs on refugees, we would be saying that their faith in the U.S. as a safe haven from the problems in their home country was misplaced.

If Kemp rejects the refugee settlement agencies’ requests, it would cause human suffering and leave a moral stain on Georgia politics. There is also little reason to do so as any political backlash for doing so would likely be minimal and refugees can improve Georgia's economy. The answer is clear: helping refugees is both the right and smart choice.

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