The millions of people fleeing war, poverty and violence around the world are not just trying to game the system to get into the United States and take what we have. That belief says more about American fears than it does about the motives of the refugee. People who have been forced to flee their homes are focused on survival. They don’t have the luxury of strategic planning, of orchestrated efforts to take advantage of people and opportunities in the US.

As we commemorate World Refugee Day, we face a grim reality: the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations, and persecution has now reached a record 100 million globally. As the number of refugees and asylum seekers continue to increase, their options continue to decrease around the world. For many Americans, refugees are seen as the “others”: foreigners, competing for jobs, receiving a slice of the American dream that is only supposed to be reserved for those born here. Many believe those arriving at our borders should have been able to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” in their own countries. That common phrase has become a rallying cry of the self-proclaimed self-reliant; a call to better yourself through hard work instead of relying on the help of others.

It’s a farce. The phrase has mutated through the years. The expression originated in the 1800s as a way to describe an impossible task. It is, in fact, impossible to literally or figuratively pull oneself up by straps on your footwear. Asking anyone, much less someone living in countries characterised by violence and persecution, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps is asking them to do the impossible.

Some politicians have capitalised on fear of the “other” to further divisive rhetoric and calls for US borders to be closed to everyone. But we’re not the ones who have reason to be fearful. In fact, studies have shown how much refugees contribute to US communities through high employment rates and high rates of entrepreneurial activities. The ones who have reasons to be fearful are those fleeing home for their lives.

I recently travelled to Romania to meet with Ukrainian refugees. I listened to their stories, and fear was a common theme. They fear for their loved ones still in Ukraine. They fear their homes and businesses will be destroyed. They fear Ukraine won’t win the war. They fear they won’t be able to return home. They fear what home will look like when they do. They fear they have nowhere to go. They fear Russian forces will invade other neighbouring countries.

It has been remarkable that so many countries have opened their borders and shared their resources to help families fleeing the war in Ukraine. The outpouring of support from governments, institutions, and individuals has been outstanding. In April, the US announced Uniting for Ukraine, a programme that provides a pathway for Ukrainians to enter the U.S. for a temporary period. Within a month of the programme’s establishment, more than 45,000 Americans had submitted applications to resettle Ukrainians displaced by the war. This generous global response to the needs of Ukrainian refugees demonstrates what is possible when we allow ourselves to be moved by the humanity of those forced to flee their homes.

Why can’t we extend this concern to all those suffering from war and other forms of violence, persecution and human rights violations? For many of the 100 million people who have fled their homes globally, fear for their future is intensified by the fact that the world has already forgotten them or never noticed their suffering to begin with.

Being forced to leave your home is physically, mentally, and emotionally distressing. Surviving can feel like a blessing and a curse. Building a new life in a new country, learning a new language, tending to the trauma of your children, and holding onto hope necessitates a strength and level of courage I pray you’ll never have to develop.

Those who come to the US looking for protection deserve our support, just as the refugees from Ukraine do, no matter where they come from or what characteristics—including race, gender, or religion—may have led to their persecution or rejection.

This World Refugee Day, let’s make the world’s response to Ukraine a model and a standard for welcoming and supporting all refugees, asylum-seekers, and other forcibly displaced people as valued members of our human family.