The enduring consequences of conflicts abroad have a pesky way of reaching our shores irrespective of American involvement. No product of war, like the people it displaces, has a more tangible impact on the nation placed at the receiving end. To the annoyance of some, our substantial wealth and availability of resources puts the United States in an opportune position to host these refugees. For the compassionate philanthropists among our population, reception of migrants fleeing from oppression and imminent danger presents a valuable opportunity to give to those in need a portion of our time and wealth of resources; a luxury afforded to us simply because of the geographical location we were born in.
Both Sides of the Issue
A massive migration of refugees comes with a series of problems, some of which deserve thoughtful consideration. Popular opinion concerning these potential issues seems to take one of two drastically opposing viewpoints with little room for overlap. The common critic’s assertions usually stem from an emotionally charged relationship with nationalism claiming a melting pot model can’t work properly if those mixed in don’t share Christian values. Concerns for language competency follow shortly after and generally occur with varying levels of English mastery themselves. In an attempt to persuade us further, we are then educated about the apparent increase of domestic terror attacks that would inevitably result from an influx of war-torn refugees.
Because none of these arguments directly mention skin color, we are then assured that evidence to support them, not bigotry, played a role in their construction.
The other side of the argument must also be considered an equally insincere effort to fully understand the potential risks involved with an indiscriminate reception of exiles. In what appears to be just another pandering of false values inasmuch as they run counter to positions from the other side of the aisle, the affirming party votes “yes,” but rejects the idea that possible negative consequences might exist. This open-mindedness is of course favored over the unsubstantiated convictions that oppose it. Yet neither side comes close to or even attempts to understand the important responsibility countries like ours must act on.
For many refugees, the choice to flee does not enter into their frequently urgent circumstances. The threat of persecution and ultimately personal injury to themselves and their families causes them to take immediate action towards safety. Leaving behind their homes, family, friends and economic stability for the promise of food, shelter and wellbeing places functioning members of society into desperate situations most Americans cannot begin to fathom. Armed with only the faith of a neighboring country’s sympathy, they make grueling journeys by boat and through wilderness not knowing what awaits them when or if they arrive.
It is our responsibility, as well as the responsibility of any nation with the economic availability, to invite our brothers and sisters from abroad to find refuge within the safe and plentiful borders of our country. We have forgotten the trials of our ancestors who risked life and limb to settle here in the past, and in doing so we’ve created a hypocritical climate of elitism.
Detractors will undoubtedly point toward incidents in the European Union caused by an influx of refugee arrivals. The biggest contributing factor in these cases is the disproportionate number of governments participating in mass refugee placement programs. Germany, a country about the size of Oregon with a population of 82 million, has taken in nearly 900,000 asylum seekers compared to the 3 million the U.S. (current population at 325 million) has taken in since 1980. It is safe to say we are not doing our part to adequately accommodate our share.
This reluctance to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves stems from a misrepresentation of the host’s relationship to the disadvantaged. “Burden” is often used to describe what should be considered an opportunity to serve our fellow man while increasing our cultural richness through diversity.
Climbing the lengthy ladder of legislation required to change our current laws doesn’t exactly inspire hope, especially when a large portion of the country has succumbed to race-based fear mongering. Community outreach programs that serve refugees living in Salt Lake City are eager to fill volunteer positions, many of which are offered by the University of Utah.
Through the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center’s International Service facet, there are several student-directed programs that cater to diverse populations with refugee status.
International Rescue Committee
The goal of this organization is to help refugees from every background in their resettling process. Some of the services they provide include: accessing health care, childcare, family mentoring, assistance with tax filing, tech support mentoring and language learning tutoring. There are currently many volunteer opportunities available to interested candidates.
Information about the IRC and other equally important programs for our local refugees can be found at www.bennioncenter.org.