MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) - The Rock Island County Board took a step in favor of refugees last week. They approved a measure that said they would allow for refugees to relocate to their county. In September, President Trump signed an executive order allowing local governments to deny refugees the ability to settle there. Even though the order's being challenged in court, the Rock Island County Board has already made it clear refugees are welcome.
Malaysian refugees Hanna Niang and her mother before they moved to the United States.
In the last five years, Rock Island County has seen 764 refugees come in through World Relief; that's .052% of the total population. One of those 764 was Hanna Niang from Malaysia.
"I was separated from my father when I was 5 years old and separated from my mother when I was 9 years old. So somebody leaving me is just the usual stuff...me leaving who I love is not easy and is something that I never want other people to experience," said 19-year old Niang.
Niang lived in Myanmar for about 10 years. She explained life in Myanmar was difficult for her and her family, "life in Myanmar was not as easy. You work today and eat for today. So if you don't work, you have to go to other people's [houses] and get [food] like that."
She then resettled to Malaysia, which wasn't much easier: "In Malaysia, we have to be scared of when our boss is going to fire us. Or when the police are going to arrest us, those kinds of things."
Her family wanting a better life, moved to the United States four years ago, when Hanna was 16. She said refugee parents like hers want "a better future for the kids. For us, like me, I just want a better future for myself and other people. Also for the American people, the refugees, the immigrants. We just want to make a difference, that's all."
Now, she works for World Relief in Moline. World Relief is an organization that helps resettle the refugees invited in by the U.S. government. For Niang, that's helping Illinois feel more like home. "it's a good thing that the Rock Island County Board approved it. Because especially in this America, the politicians, need to hear voices. It's a good thing, I'm really happy and proud the Rock Island County stood for us."
In 2017, President Trump announced the cap for refugee admission would be 45,0000 which is the lowest number since before 1980. In Illinois, the number dropped from 3493 refugees in 2016 to 722 in 2018. That's a drop of about 75 percent. In Iowa, it went from 1087 refugees being resettled in 2016 to 529 in 2018, over 50 percent in two years.
The top five countries of origin the refugees resettled from between 2016 and 2018 into Iowa were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Bhutan, Eritrea, and Somalia. The 20,395 estimated refugees paid 150.7 million dollars in taxes in 2015, according to the New American Economy.
In Illinois, the top five countries of origin for the resettled refugees were Burma, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Bhutan. The 95,259 estimated refugees in Illinois paid 908.7 million dollars in 2015, according to the New American Economy.
In the United States in 2015, there were an estimated 3.4 million refugees. They paid a total of 20.9 billion dollars in taxes. The business income of refugee entrepreneurs in 2015 was 4.6 billion dollars, according to the New American Economy.
President Trump's executive decision to allow local governments to decide whether they want to accept refugees is now temporarily blocked after a federal judge said local governments refusing the resettlement is "unlawful." Rock Island County Board member Kai Swanson says the measure wouldn't affect residents' taxes.