At a 2016 rally in Warwick, Rhode Island, President-Elect Donald Trump suggested that refugees might be affiliated with the Islamic State and continues to say that:
“We don’t know who these people are. We don’t know where they’re from. We don’t know where they’re from. They have no documentation. We all have hearts and we can build safe zones in Syria and we’ll get the Gulf states to put up the money. We’re not putting up the money, but I’ll get that done. But you know what? We can’t let this happen. But you have a lot of them resettling in Rhode Island. Just enjoy your — lock your doors, folks.” (Pamela Engel)
To me, this is hogwash. First of all, I myself don’t know half the neighbors that I should because life gets busy and sometimes you can’t make the time. However, when you do want to get to know someone, you make time. That’s generally the process of acquainting oneself with others. If “knowing” these people is that necess ary, make time. Being immersed into a culture much different from their own, most refugees have a strong willingness to connect with Americans. They’ve chosen the United States as a place of refuge.
During the weekend of November 4th of this year, I, along with the rest of my Global Citizen Scholars cohort, visited Vive la Casa in Buffalo, NY, the largest shelter for asylum-seekers on the US/Canadian border. At first, I didn’t feel that welcomed by those at the shelter, and overall I felt downright outside my comfort zone. However, I decided to make the first move and I just started talking to anyone willing to converse. Being friendly and stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is great because it’ll help them do the same, which in my case, it did exactly that.
Second of all, Trump says that these foreigners “have no documentation.” However, I’d like to make it clear that an asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection, but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. In contrast, a refugee is someone who has been recognized under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees to be a refugee. It’s not that they don’t have documentation; it’s that those asylees are seeking documentation. At Vive la Casa in Buffalo, those living there are actually seeking refuge in Canada rather than America because the process for seeking refuge in America is relatively unpromising and quite lengthy. Trump tries to recover himself by saying that we “all have hearts and we can build safe zones in Syria”, but why go the extra mile of coercing the Gulf states to “put up the money” when we have states in the West that are rather vacant and are of need of diversification? Trump concludes his speech by advising the audience to “lock your doors” as if no Muslim can be trusted. I agree that you should lock your doors for safety reasons, but not because you believe a specific community is out to get everyone else.
One of America’s greatest activists, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Rather than blaming all Muslims for being terrorists, we should begin to discuss ideas of how we can take efficient measures so that refugees can help to build a better tomorrow.