How American towns are helping foreign refugees

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How American towns are helping foreign refugees

The idea of housing refugees seeking haven in the United States is widely controversial.

Yet, some American towns have and continue to welcome refugees from around the world. Many local politicians see it it as a positive for the community, both culturally and economically.

Utica, New York has housed refugees since the 1970s -- 1 in every 4 citizens there is a refugee. These refugees have helped rejuvenate Utica's economy by rebuilding neighborhoods and operating small businesses. A 2013 study found that 69% of Utica residents viewed immigration as good for the area.

Mayor Christopher Louras of Rutland, Vermont believes refugees can help fill vacant housing and entry-level jobs.

More than 350 refugees settled in Fargo, North Dakota in 2015 and have greatly contributed to the city's population and economic growth. The refugee population of Fargo increased the diversity of the city from 2% to 11% since 2002.

These cities aren't the only ones supporting refugees. Mayors from 18 major cities said they were willing to accept even more refugees than the Obama administration proposed.

In 2015, they penned a letter to the president saying: "We will welcome the Syrian families to make homes and new lives in our cities."

Click through the gallery to see the differing opinions on refugees in America:

25 PHOTOS
Divided America: Differing opinions on refugees
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Divided America: Differing opinions on refugees
In this April 12, 2016 photo, mountains rise behind a fence on land belonging to Gloria Roark, a vocal opponent of refugees coming to her state, near Clearwater, Mont. What started as a disagreement over whether to welcome dozens of refugees to this corner of western Montana soon erupted into something much larger, encompassing wildly divergent views of Islam, big government and whether Americans should âtake care of our ownâ before worrying about newcomers. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 14, 2016 photo, Missoula Mayor John Engen exits city hall in Missoula, Mont. âI think that the war on terror has produced an internal war on compassion,â he says. âWe have been programmed to be very afraid since 9/11 and to think of people who aren't white Anglo-Saxon Americans as `otherâ and we should be afraid of people who are âother.ââ (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 14, 2016 photo, a frontier battle is depicted in a painting hanging on the wall in the Ravalli County Commissioners offices in Hamilton, Mont. What started as a disagreement over whether to welcome dozens of refugees to this corner of western Montana soon erupted into something much larger, encompassing wildly divergent views of Islam, big government and whether Americans should âtake care of our ownâ before worrying about newcomers. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 12, 2016 photo, Gloria Roark, a vocal opponent of refugees coming to her state, drives near her ranch land outside Clearwater, Mont. Roark helped organize anti-refugee rallies, including at the state capital and another in Missoula. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, Samir Bitar, Arabic studies professor at the University of Montana, teaches Arabic language class on campus in Missoula, Mont. Bitar has lectured for decades across the state without controversy _ until 2016, when about a dozen people in the nearby town of Darby objected to his planned talk at the library. The reason: They didnât want a Muslim in their town, according to the librarian. The library board voted. Bitar spoke and received a warm reception. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, Samir Bitar, Arabic studies professor at the University of Montana, speaks during an interview on the campus in Missoula, Mont. Bitar moved to Montana as a 16-year-old to attend college in Missoula and has been here for 42 years. But he says because of current anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S., he feels threatened in a way he never has before. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 14, 2016 photo, Shawn Wathen stands for a photo inside his bookstore in Hamilton, Mont., the county seat of Ravalli County. Wathen, who has called the sprawling Bitterroot Valley home for 20 years, sees the rejection of refugees as a blend of misinformation, economic anxiety and fear of the unknown. "It surpasses any notion of reason ... that kind of idea that they are not us, and therefore they pose a threat,â he says. âThere's just that sense the horde is out there and if we don't circle the wagons ... we're going to be overrun and poor white America is going to suffer." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 12, 2016 photo, surfers ride an artificial wave created in the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula, Mont. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, pedestrians walk past the entrance to the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, in Missoula, Mont. Rankin, a pacifist who was the first woman member of Congress, was the only vote against declaring war on Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
This April 14, 2016 photo shows a street corner in Hamilton, Mont., the county seat of Ravalli County. Though the sparsely populated state is home to seven Indian reservations, nearly nine of 10 residents are white, according to Census figures. Only about 2 percent are foreign-born. Since 2012, the state has welcomed just 13 refugees from Cuba and Iraq, according to officials. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, a train track runs through Ravalli County, near Hamilton, Mont. Though the sparsely populated state is home to seven Indian reservations, nearly nine of 10 residents are white, according to Census figures. Only about 2 percent are foreign-born. Since 2012, the state has welcomed just 13 refugees from Cuba and Iraq, according to officials. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, peace activist Betsy Mulligan-Dague stands next to a wall covered in bumper stickers at the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, which she directs, in Missoula, Mont. Mulligan-Dague works with Soft Landing, a non-profit organized to help with the resettlement of refugees in the area. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 12, 2016 photo, bighorn sheep run along a steep mountainside outside Missoula, Mont. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, Jameel Chaudhry, University of Montana campus architect, walks on the campus in Missoula, Mont. A native of Kenya and a member of the small Muslim community in the area, says he senses a new hostility. "All of a sudden WE are the problem. Weâve never had this before, and I've been here 20 years. We didn't have this even after 9/11." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, Jameel Chaudhry, University of Montana campus architect, speaks during an interview on the campus in Missoula, Mont. A native of Kenya and a member of the small Muslim community in the area, says he senses a new hostility. "All of a sudden WE are the problem. Weâve never had this before, and I've been here 20 years. We didn't have this even after 9/11." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 14, 2016 photo, activist and Soft Landing founder Mary Poole works at home in Missoula, Mont. Haunted by the 2015 photo of a Syrian refugee boy washed ashore in Turkey, she and members of her book group asked: Why not bring a small number of Syrian families to Missoula? "It wasn't even a grain of sand in my brain that people wouldn't want to help starving, drowning families. I didn't do this to be controversial. I didn't do this to stir the pot," she says. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, Samir Bitar, Arabic studies professor at the University of Montana, walks to his class on campus in Missoula, Mont. Bitar, a Palestinian who moved to Montana as a 16-year-old to attend college in Missoula, finds current anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S. disheartening. People now are âmotivated by pure emotion and not really thinking in logical terms,â he says. âFear turns into hatred.â (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 14, 2016 photo, activist and Soft Landing founder Mary Poole plays with her dog at home in Missoula, Mont. Haunted by the 2015 photo of a Syrian refugee boy washed ashore in Turkey, she and members of her book group asked: Why not bring a small number of Syrian families to Missoula? "It wasn't even a grain of sand in my brain that people wouldn't want to help starving, drowning families. I didn't do this to be controversial. I didn't do this to stir the pot," she says. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 12, 2016 photo, Jim Buterbaugh, a vocal opponent of refugees coming to his state, stands on ranch land belonging to a friend near Clearwater, Mont. âIt doesnât make any difference if theyâre Muslims, Russians, whatever. You have to know who they are, what they've been doing in the past,â says Buterbaugh, a construction worker who organized three opposition rallies, including one at the state capitol. âAre you going to go downtown and take five people off the streets and move them into your house without knowing who they are? Nobody in their right mind would do that." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 12, 2016 photo, runners make their way down a hillside overlooking the University of Montana campus in Missoula, Mont. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 12, 2016 photo, Jim Buterbaugh and Gloria Roark, opponents of refugees coming to their state, talk on ranch land belonging to Roark near Clearwater, Mont. Buterbaugh says, âIt doesnât make any difference if theyâre Muslims, Russians, whatever. You have to know who they are, what they've been doing in the past. Are you going to go downtown and take five people off the streets and move them into your house without knowing who they are? Nobody in their right mind would do that." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 14, 2016 photo, Ray Hawk, a Ravalli County commissioner, speaks during an interview in Hamilton, Mont. âThese are folks that have declared war on the United States,â he says, worried that terrorists could pose as refugees. âTheir war is terrorism and thatâs the way theyâre going to do it. And I donât feel that we need to give them that chance. Now, if the government gets a handle on this thing and has a way to vet these people, Iâm all for them. I love to see anybody come into America and succeed.â (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 13, 2016 photo, bison graze near Hamilton, Mont., in Ravalli County. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this April 14, 2016 photo, Missoula Mayor John Engen speaks during an interview outside city hall in Missoula, Mont. âI think that the war on terror has produced an internal war on compassion,â he says. âWe have been programmed to be very afraid since 9/11 and to think of people who aren't white Anglo-Saxon Americans as 'otherâ and we should be afraid of people who are âother.ââ (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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