We tend to have more sympathy for refugees, as they have usually suffered to some degree and have not chosen the lot which brings them away from their home. If we are going to rescue anyone, we think, better to rescue the innocent sufferers. This is part of why liberals (generally) commenting on the situation in Europe want us to think that pretty much all these people are refugees, showing us pictures of cute children or sad-looking parents carrying their few belongings.
Conservatives (generally) are quick to focus on how few of them seem to actually fit the description, noting the preponderance of young males, the cost of smuggling them across Turkey, their unwillingness to go to the poorer European or any Arab country, and opinion polls suggesting that as many as 30% may have sympathy for terrorist groups including ISIS and be uninterested in assimilating to their new countries very much. Refugees good, migrants bad, in the news cycle.
There's another side to that. Refugees tend to arrive with fewer skills, and are often passive. Whether this is a passivity attributable to their trauma, or whether passive people are more likely to become refugees in battle zones I don't know, but the final effect is passivity here.
Cuban refugees went to my school when I was a boy, and about a third of the foreign students in my highschool were refugees from one place or another. We resettled Laotians in the early 80's. The occasional Polish or Russian refugee would come into our field of vision before the Iron Curtain fell. Refugees from former Yugoslavia work at my hospital, and I know that crowd moderately well. We worked with Sudanese refugees more recently, teaching Sunday School and helping them found a church in our denomination. We still see those a bit.
And through it all I have had many refugees, from a couple of dozen places, among my patients at the hospital. I may know more refugees than I know other immigrants, which would surely seem strange to those who live in Mexamerica or near the big cities.
I'm no expert on refugees and my sample is biased in more than one direction, but I do know some, in various places and times. I know some who have good American jobs and middle-class lives now, and I know some who we will be caring for forever, because they have no ability to do even the simplest job here. Nor do all of them have any kind of grateful attitude or the gentle tolerance of people who have seen much pain, as movies and documentaries would have us think. Some do. The small numbers that we take in are largely symbolic in terms of solving the problems of the world. A gesture. They can be a significant burden on an area.
Most of our ancestors were economic migrants, not refugees. Even those that were escaping political or religious persecution were not actually refugees, though we certainly have had both. Most of the immigrants now are not refugees, but people hoping to set up some sort of life here.
I'm not advocating anything. Just clarifying.