New Study Shows that Refugees May or May Not Be Good for the Economy

by Jason Dzubow on June 15, 2017

Studies about immigrants and refugees tend to be a sort-of Rorschach test: For those who support higher levels of migration, they show that immigrants contribute positively to our society; for those who want to restrict immigration, the same studies demonstrate that new arrivals have a negative impact on our country.

Cost of resettling a refugee: $107,000. Taxes paid by said refugee: $130,00. Saving a human life: Priceless.

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that part of the problem is a lack of data. Where there is a dearth of information, we tend to fill-in the blank spaces with our own hopes and fears. Think of those medieval maps that showed fanciful creatures and fabulous kingdoms just past the borders of the known world.

The most recent attempt to quantify the economic impact of refugees comes from two professors at the University of Notre Dame: William N. Evans and Daniel Fitzgerald. Their paper, The Economic and Social Outcomes of Refugees in the United States, uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent five-year American Community Survey (2010-2014) to tease out the impact of refugees–as distinct from other immigrants–on the U.S. economy. The website Five Thirty Eight nicely summarizes the report’s findings:

[R]esearchers pulled a sample of 18-to-45-year-olds who resettled in the U.S. over the past 25 years and examined how their employment and earnings changed over time. They found that the U.S. spends roughly $15,000 in relocation costs and $92,000 in social programs over a refugee’s first 20 years in the country. However, they estimated that over the same time period, refugees pay nearly $130,000 in taxes — over $20,000 more than they receive in benefits.

The authors found that, when compared to rates among U.S.-born residents, unemployment was higher and earnings were lower among adult refugees during their first few years in the country, but these outcomes changed substantially over time. After six years in the U.S., refugees were more likely to be employed than U.S.-born residents around the same age. The longer they live longer in the U.S., the more refugees’ economic outcomes improved and the less they relied on government assistance. While refugees’ average wages are never as high as the average for U.S.-born residents, after about eight years in the U.S., refugees aren’t significantly more likely to receive welfare or food stamps than native-born residents with similar education and language skills.

Responses to the report were predictable. The restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies questioned the study’s methodology (Steven Camarota notes that the authors did not include costs associated with education, incarceration, and law enforcement and looked only at more productive, working-age refugees). The Migration Policy Institute viewed the report as evidence that resettlement agencies help refugees become self-sufficient more quickly. Both points seem worthy of further exploration, and I hope this report will help spark more discussion.

For my part, I have mixed feelings about the study. On the one hand, the whole idea of quantifying the economic impact of refugees seems like a vulgar exercise. We shouldn’t be helping such people because we hope to gain a monetary benefit from them. We should help them because it is the right thing to do. Indeed, the notion that refugees should somehow be a financial boon to our economy debases the high ideals of our humanitarian immigration system.

On the other hand (and in the real world), I recognize that it is critical for us to understand the impact of refugees on our country–economically, socially, and in the national security context. The report by Professors Evans and Fitzgerald seems to be a valuable contribution to this effort. Only with more information about refugees can we create rational, fact-based policies. How many refugees and asylum seekers should we admit each year? How well do such people integrate into our community? How can we ease the transition so that migrants become self sufficient more quickly? The more information we have, the better equipped we will be to answer such questions.

To be sure, the economic aspect of refugee resettlement is only one part of the story. But it is important to better understand how refugees are integrating into our economy so we can help improve that process. It is also relevant (at least to some extent) to the debate about how many refugees we should be admitting into our country.

These days I am not feeling overly optimistic about the quality of our public conversation on refugees (or on any other topic). It is far more common to hear hyperbole, falsehoods, and ad hominem attacks in the immigration debate than it is to find sober analysis. But at least in the economic realm, I think this report is significant. It contributes to a mounting body of evidence suggesting that immigrants and refugees help our economy more than most restrictionists would have us believe. It is also a serious piece of analytic work at a time when seriousness is sorely lacking from the discussion.

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Zvidzai October 10, 2017 at 1:29 pm

I applied for an EAD in Nebraska and they confirmed receipt on 24 August 2017, today is 10 October I haven’t received anything, while on the other hand, i have people that I know who are in Texas who applied after me in Texas they have theirs already. Might there be a problem with my application? Will it be an offense if I can go to Texas and apply again there?

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Jason Dzubow October 11, 2017 at 6:35 am

If there is a problem, USCIS will send you a letter about that. We are seeing EADs take 4 or 5 months, though some people get them much faster. I think you will just have to wait, but you can call USCIS and ask about the case status – their number can be found at http://www.uscis.gov. Take care, Jason

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memo October 6, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Hello Jason,
I would like to know which state or city can process Green card application faster than another for people under granted Asylum for 1 year?
Thank you so much

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Jason Dzubow October 8, 2017 at 7:41 am

I have never seen any statistics about that, and I doubt it makes much difference where you are in the US. Usually if there are delays, they are caused by other problems that depend on the case, not the location of the processing office. Take care, Jason

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Dilon patson June 21, 2017 at 7:57 pm

Hey Jason,

Today I received the NTA letter from the newark court. My question is, how do I know which judge is handling my case?

Thank you.

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Jason Dzubow June 23, 2017 at 6:23 am

The case may not be assigned to a judge yet, but you can call the court hotline, enter your Alien number, and it will tell you your next court date and your judge. The number is 1-800-898-7180. Take care, Jason

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Dilon patson June 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Hey Jason,
Thank you, I found the judge and the MCH in august. Also he’s in one of the new judges appointed last week. My question is if he’s new, that’s mean my case is in his top list rite? Do you think, I will get the individual hearing soon after the mch? Just beacuase he is new?

Thank you.

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Jason Dzubow June 26, 2017 at 10:22 pm

It is possible that you will get a fast date, but that is not always true for new judges. Sometimes, they take over the (very long) docket of a judge who left the court. I guess you will find out pretty soon. Good luck, Jason

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Miller June 21, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Hello Jason,
Have you checked the affirmative asylum scheduling bulletin lately? I think there is a significant progress (for instance San Francisco became faster than most) and I believe new offices were opened too? What do you think about the latest developments? With regards..

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Miller June 21, 2017 at 7:57 pm

And Los Angeles too, they moved ahead more than a year in a month or so…

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yousef June 21, 2017 at 10:44 pm

hi my friend how did you know san fransico faster then most???

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Miller June 22, 2017 at 12:34 am

https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/affirmative-asylum-scheduling-bulletin

You can check which office is taking care of cases filed when. For instance in May San Francisco was processing cases which were filed in April ’15

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yousef June 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

Thank you so much ,and you think these days are faster???

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Jason Dzubow June 23, 2017 at 6:22 am

The Bulletin is now showing the Boston and New Orleans sub-offices, which is helpful. And it does seem that things are starting to move in most offices. I believe it is because fewer people are seeking asylum at the US/Mexico border and this is freeing up the asylum offices to work on affirmative cases. Take care, Jason

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wainwoo June 21, 2017 at 3:53 pm

hi Jason,

how long does it take to transfer a case from one state to the other once transfer documents are filled.

Thankyou as always

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Jason Dzubow June 22, 2017 at 6:40 am

If you are talking about the asylum office, it probably takes a few months to move the case. You can contact the old and new asylum offices to make sure that the case was moved and that you have kept your place in the line. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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Jacob June 21, 2017 at 10:25 am

Hello Jason,
Do you know if the affirmative asylum schedule bulletin is also good for people who live outside the 8 asylum offices? I applied for Asylum in Nebraska (where i live) which is under the chicago juridiction in August 2014, should i expect an interview soon since chicago is doing June-oct 2014 cases? Anyone who has an idea of the cases being interviewed in Nebraska.Thanks a log for this website and your help to this community

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Jason Dzubow June 22, 2017 at 6:32 am

I do not know about Nebraska, but I believe that you will be interviewed in the Chicago office, not a sub-office. If that is correct, you can rely on the schedule for Chicago. However, if you will be interviewed in a sub-office, it is usually slower than the schedule for the main office. You could email the Chicago office to ask them whether your case will be interviewed with them or with a sub-office. You can find their contact info if you follow the link at right called Asylum Office Locator. Take care, Jason

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Rita2017 June 23, 2017 at 8:34 am

They can ask you for interview in Nebraska/Chicago. Either or. Your turn is very soon be ready and good luck!

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L.f June 20, 2017 at 11:09 pm

Thank you Jason very much for doing all this and everyone who can help on this blog
My asylum is pending in NY office., my address is in Staten Island.
I work, pay taxes, and driver license in Pennsylvania
Is this gonna be a problem or do i have to move everything in NY!?
Please Jadon if you can advise me what to do !?
God bless you

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Jason Dzubow June 21, 2017 at 6:23 am

It depends on where you live. If you live in PA, then you should change your address to PA. It may not make any difference in terms of your asylum office. You can go to the link at right called Asylum Office Locator and enter the zip coeds for your place in NY and your place in PA. I have a feeling that both will show your asylum office is in New Jersey. In that case, you can use either address and you will still have your case at the same office. You are supposed to use the address where you actually live (though you can also give them a mailing address). Take care, Jason

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Tina June 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Hello,

My question today is also regarding AP. My asylum case is pending. I entered the country on visa and stayed after the visa expired for more than a year. I applied for asylum after the one year as I was outed as gay. Now that I have work permit and license, do you think I can visit Mexico( not my home country) for my friends’ wedding? How about if I just want to travel somewhere like Europe for like vacations?

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Jason Dzubow June 20, 2017 at 3:29 pm

To get AP while you have a pending asylum case, you need to show a “humanitarian” reason. I think a vacation would not qualify for this. Maybe if you were visiting a sick relative, or going for a work trip, that might qualify. If you do have AP, you should be able to travel and return despite the prior overstay. Take care, Jason

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Daniel June 20, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Jason, the TRAC immigration reports have no data on Immigration Judge Emmett Soper here at the Arlington Immigration Court. (http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/judgereports/). Have you practiced in front of him, and if so, what was your impression of how he handles asylum cases?

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Jason Dzubow June 20, 2017 at 3:27 pm

He is new in Arlington. I have not yet had a case with him, though I think I will soon. I have heard good things about him, but I have no data about his grant rate. Take care, Jason

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Emon June 19, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Not sure about the population surveyed but I can talk about myself. I started working with an pending asylum EAD making over 200K a year. This has obviously continued after I got asylum and then the GC. I paid significant taxes based on my income. I haven’t claimed a penny in welfare as it is considered a shame in my culture for a young, non-disabled to depend on the society to fend for them. I don’t mean to boast or anything but it’s important to see the other side of this story. However I do have two masters degrees MS and MBA) from US schools so this may not be the case for everyone.

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Jason Dzubow June 20, 2017 at 6:44 am

I think you are not so different from many of my asylum seeker clients – many are young, US educated, and can get good jobs. Probably it is a sign that I should raise my rates, but we will see. Thank you for the comment, Jason

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Lk June 20, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Did you have another interview when you applied for green Card based on asylum and how many years you Green card is valid for ? I have greanted an asylum this year in February !! Thank you !!

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Shawn June 19, 2017 at 10:22 am

Hi Jason. Hope you’re fine. Has any of your client recently applied for a EAD renewal? Do you know if USCIS still sends text messages/emails with receipt# to say they received your application which then allows you to check the different stages of the EAD renewal application? I know someone who recently applied for EAD renewal- roughly 17 days ago- and hasn’t received any response from USCIS. Do you know if the are now mailing the receipt with notice to say your old EAD has been extended? Have you come across any such cases? I don’t know what the new process is like. Thank you for you time and effort.

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Jason Dzubow June 20, 2017 at 6:33 am

I believe they are still sending emails about this (and maybe texts, but I don’t do text messages, so I am not sure). I have heard from someone on this blog that they received a receipt without the automatic extension note on it, but so far, all our renewals have the automatic extension. Hopefully, this is not something that USCIS will change. I will keep an eye on it, and if I see anything different, I will try to do a post on it. Take care, Jason

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Shawn June 20, 2017 at 9:01 am

Jason, thank you for this information.

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Shawn June 20, 2017 at 9:05 am

I forgot to ask: On average, when the EAD renewal application is submitted, how long before they usually get a response (like response with receipt number/that the application was received?) It’s like 18 days now since they submitted the application and no response from USCIS.

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Jason Dzubow June 20, 2017 at 3:22 pm

It takes a few weeks. I tell my clients to expect the receipt in 4 weeks and contact me if they do not receive it by then. Take care, Jason

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Shawn June 21, 2017 at 9:10 am

Thank you!

Alexey June 18, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Hello Jason. I have an question about Advanced Parole that was approved for me a day ago and now I am waiting for a document itself in my mailbox. My asylum is pending and I need to travel abroad for an emergency purposes. Sure, I am not gonna return to my country of persecution. But still I am so stressed and scared about traveling. Thing is that before I applied for asylum. I stayed here illegally for a 1 year. I heard about ban for 10 years in that regard.
Since, I am a big fan of your work. I wanna know your opinion If it is save for me to travel and Did you have clients that had same situation and successful returned to America.
Thank you.

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Jason Dzubow June 20, 2017 at 6:20 am

We have had clients who traveled and returned, and AP should work even for people who have the 10-year bar (it didn’t used to be that way). If you are not sure, you may want to have a lawyer research your exact situation to make sure it is ok, but we have not seen people with AP rejected from traveling and returning. Take care, Jason

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Raïs June 17, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Hi Jason thank you so much for what you are doing.
My wife & i have a pending case and we’re living in New York but my wife is currently in Colorado I just wanna know if she can do and medical test in Colorado ?

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Jason Dzubow June 20, 2017 at 6:13 am

I think I responded to this, but I do not know what medical tests you are referring to, so I am not sure. Take care, Jason

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Raïs June 20, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Thanks for your answer. How case is à an asylum case base on excision

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Solo tey June 17, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Dear Jason

Greetings
I applied for my first EAD two weeks ago; I forgot to mail a copy of my password when I mailed my application and today I received a letter saying my application is being processed does this mean they don’t need a copy of my password or should I contact them

Thank you in advance and may good bless you for your service

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Solo tey June 17, 2017 at 4:52 pm

!

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Kris June 18, 2017 at 11:46 pm

If you have sent some other form of identification, you should be fine. I am not 100% sure but I think for Asylum based EAD, they will waive ID requirements.

If they really need a copy of your passport, they will send you another letter asking for it. You can send it then and you will be fine.

In either case, there is no reason to worry.

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Solo tey June 19, 2017 at 7:34 am

Thank you kris

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Jason Dzubow June 19, 2017 at 6:40 am

We normally send the passport copy, but not everyone has a passport and it should be possible to process the case without that. If they need it, they will send you a letter asking for it, and you can mail it at that time. Take care, Jason

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Solo tey June 19, 2017 at 7:33 am

Thank you Jason

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Comrade June 17, 2017 at 10:39 am

Hi Jason,
Thanks for your kind guidance time to time.you are the hope for Asylum seekers.
My Asylum interview conducted last week.AO told me that they will send Decision by Mail within some days.
Yesterday i received letter for my fingure prints on next week.What it mean?Plz guide.Thanks.

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Jason Dzubow June 19, 2017 at 6:35 am

Sometimes the fingerprints “expire,” and so you have to do them again. I do not think it is a good or bad sign in terms of the decision, but it might indicate more delay before you receive the decision (and not just a few days). But hopefully the decision will not be long. Good luck, Jason

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Jacob June 16, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Dear Mr. Jason,

I have a question as follows:

My girlfriend took asylum seeking interview in October 2016. We got married in March 2017. She receive her asylum approval in May 2017. My name is not in her asylum application. Now, am I eligible to apply for ” Derivative asylum”? In the approval letter it says that spouse can apply for asylum. I appreciate your answer.

Jacob

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Kris June 18, 2017 at 11:36 pm

Hi. Congrats.

I went through the exact same issue. You can. Your wife will have to file I-730 for you and she will have to show the proof (marriage certificate dated before May 2017).

Besides the marriage certificate, it is better to send them other proofs of marriage like joint accounts, joint lease, photographs etc. A well explained cover letter is always a plus!

The USCIS website says they may interview you to establish bona-fide marriage or they may choose to waive it. In my case, they approved my wife’s case without an interview. But you should be prepared for a possible interview.

As long as you have a legal document showing the marriage was performed before the day she was granted Asylum, you will qualify even if your name is not in her application. I can confidently say that because I went through it.

I had a lawyer to do all that. I think you should have some lawyer do it because of little delicacy in your situation, especially if you get called up for interview.

Hope that helps.

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Jason Dzubow June 20, 2017 at 6:24 am

Thank you for that comment – it is very helpful (as I have not done a case like that yet). Take care, Jason

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Alan June 23, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Hi Kris,
I will be appreciate,if you share your experience.(my spouse has almost similar case as you).
Were you added in application after final decision or before? If before,How long have you been waiting for EAD and final decision?
Thanks you

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Jason Dzubow June 19, 2017 at 6:26 am

I think technically you are eligible since the marriage took place before the decision. However, since you are not listed on her case, I am not sure how this will work. It may be that she can just file the I-730 for you and explain about the marriage date, but I am not sure. I recommend you talk to a lawyer to be sure about the procedure. Take care, Jason

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Sam June 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Good afternoon Jason,

Thank you so much for all your support to us. Your insights are really valuable to us. One of my friend had an interview couple of weeks ago. Most of his responses were adhered to this declaration but some of them did deviate away. He was called two weeks later for his result. However, during the waiting time for his result he got a call for a second interview. Is this normal? I have not heard about this scenario before. Do you have any thoughts on this. Thanks.

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Mynation June 16, 2017 at 6:43 pm

That’s normal. They want more information.

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Jason Dzubow June 19, 2017 at 6:24 am

It sometimes happens. My best guess is that the officer completed the case and gave it to the supervisor, and the supervisor had more questions. Anyway, he should prepare for the interview as before, and maybe they will explain why he needs a new interview when he goes there. Take care, Jason

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TruthSeeker June 16, 2017 at 5:45 am

Could everybody write the center they applied for EAD and the days it took to get the EAD? For example “Nebraska, 60 days”. This will allow us to see normal processing times. Jason, sorry for using your blog as a platform for data gathering. I just hope this will help everyone with their expectations.

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Kris June 15, 2017 at 12:41 pm

I can’t speak for others but I was granted asylum only a year ago and I made over $150k in 2016 from Self employment. I paid more than $50k in Federal, state and local taxes combined. Still, I do not feel comfortable opening up about my Asylum status with my neighbors and US born friends because I am afraid to be treated differently and I feel it will significantly change the way people perceive about me just because I have the word Asylum in my baggage. Thanks to the last election.

US definitely gave me protection and I am very grateful for that but I am still fighting to live with dignity. I don’t know if I am asking too much though. I surely asked and got protection but is it fair to ask for dignity too in the package? I really don’t know. I don’t know if I should just be grateful to be physically safe.

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TruthSeeker June 16, 2017 at 5:47 am

If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of business are you in?

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Kris June 18, 2017 at 11:14 pm

Publishing and marketing.

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Tina June 20, 2017 at 11:16 pm

Are you hiring?????

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Jason Dzubow June 16, 2017 at 6:46 am

I think you are like most asylum seekers (as opposed to refugees) in that you are contributing much more than you are taking. This is true for the vast majority of my clients as well. I cannot say what the general attitude is towards asylum seekers. In my circles, it is not a stigma at all, but I know that is not true everywhere. For what it’s worth, if you were to read historic accounts of immigrants, I think the problems you are facing are not so different than what they are facing. This is why, for example, that my great grandparents and grandparents did not teach my parents their native languages – they wanted to be more American. Take care, and thank you for your contribution (and your taxes)! Jason

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constantin June 17, 2017 at 5:54 am

I wanna support you 😉
if you granted – nevermind.

PS I’m making over 200k and have great opportunity to raise.
And my asylum is pending…
Huge or no income ? it does not have any impact on case….

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Kris June 18, 2017 at 11:12 pm

Grant of Asylum/Refugee status is irrelevant of finances as far as the process and it’s very existence is concerned. For example, a billionaire could easily be disqualified for Asylum if he does not meet the definition of refugee (he might qualify too given that politicians are often directly related to big money folks).

As far as the impact on the economy by approved applicants is concerned, I agree with Jason that they will in the long run impact the economy positively.

And Good luck with your case.

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constantin June 29, 2017 at 6:52 pm

True, that your income does not impact your case.
In this case what is the value of analytics ?
PS. I know family which has millions in a cash, and they are asylees 😉

Thanks.

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Jason Dzubow June 19, 2017 at 6:33 am

Income should have no effect on the case. But of course, you can use that money to hire a fancy attorney, which can help you better present your case. Take care, Jason

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constantin June 29, 2017 at 6:49 pm

We already hired one “fancy attorney”. After his office work I have only one desire – get rid of from him.

Unfortunately there are attorneys who are not disturbed by your case/destiny, one things is what attract them – money you are making. I do not know what is the proportion of this attorney, but first attorney we tried – no words. I know it’s a business….

We as are family still have are hope to meet strong attorney who will truly share our problem and help us.

Thanks.

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Jason Dzubow July 3, 2017 at 10:45 pm

I did a posting on July 7, 2016 where I talk about this issue (especially in the second half of the article) – maybe that would help. Take care, Jason

Jason Dzubow July 3, 2017 at 10:48 pm

Sorry – I think the correct date is March 2, 2016…

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