Since there is a flurry of mis-information circulating about refugee related issues, I feel compelled to disclose some facts, as a physician. Communicable disease prevention has always been the cornerstone for screening, admitting and settling refugees in the United States. Each year the president sets a target quota for the number of refugees who will be allowed into the United States. The total number of refugees allowed into America, annually, would fill Lane Stadium or the Redskins stadium. Based on capacity, refugees are assigned to resettlement communities across the country. Each state has a system of services developed to assure the successful settlement and integration of refugees into our society. In Virginia, the Department of Social Services is tasked with the oversight of refugee resettlement for approximately 2400 people who come to Virginia and, in southwest Virginia, Commonwealth Catholic Charities is the primary provider of services required to successfully assimilate refugees and asylees into the United States. Each locality, in turn, has a local system of care where refugees are shepherded into their new life, counseled and held accountable to become self-sufficient within six months after entry into America. In 2015, 200 refugees settled in southwest Virginia.

A refugee is a person who a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. An asylee is a person who is seeking or has been granted political asylum. These immigrants must apply for acceptance as a refugee or asylee and many apply to multiple countries in order to escape the harsh realities of their lives. Each country has a system of screening and processing. Our process, in the U.S., is very thorough and aims to assure successful entry and assimilation for individuals and families. Each applicant undergoes a year and a half background investigation, first, and is then screened for other parameters, including health. In southwest Virginia, the receiving communities have benefited mightily by an influx of talent from all over the world and from the tremendous surge of volunteerism in support of those persons who are selected to settle here.

As a physician who has assessed thousands of incoming refugees and asylees from all over the world, I cannot think of one that I would not want as my neighbor.