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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Some (Unsolicited) Advice for the Anti-Refugee Crowd

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It's easy to find anti-immigration websites and blogs on the internet, but there really aren't many websites devoted exclusively to opposing refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S.* Of course, many of the anti-immigration websites periodically discuss these issues, but this is not the same as a restrictionist website focusing on asylum.


The only blog I've found that is devoted exclusively to these issues is Refugee Resettlement Watch, which (as the name implies) was founded to highlight problems in the U.S. refugee resettlement program.* RRW advocates for fewer refugees and better oversight of the resettlement program.* It also opposes bringing in "Muslim refugees, Somalis in particular, who have no intention of becoming Americans."* The blog authors add a note for those who might think the website racist:


Some of you reading this have for way too long intimidated and silenced*people you disagree with by calling them racists, xenophobes, hatemongers and on and on and on.* It doesn't work here, in fact, when you start with that sort of attack and don't address the issues we raise, it validates our work.


The bloggers for RRW are very active, and post several articles each day.* They also attract a fair bit of attention-according to their website statistics, the site has received almost 1.2 million hits.


Although I obviously disagree with the main goal of RRW, I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with advocating for the reduction or elimination of our refugee and/or asylum programs.* Indeed, I can think of a number of legitimate arguments supporting such a move: Our money would be more effectively spent helping refugees overseas; these programs are too costly given our current economic woes; refugees integrate too slowly-or not at all-into our communities; we should only help refugees who are "culturally compatible" with our society.* I won't address these arguments here.* Instead, I want to talk about RRW (in other words, it's time for the unsolicited advice).



"Why are people always dis-ing Ishtar?"



First, RRW would be more effective if it was less partisan.* The blog is not even close to neutral in its approach; it reports almost exclusively negative news about refugees.* If a refugee jaywalks in Cincinnati, RRW will cover it.* But if a refugee saves 10 children from a burning school bus, you won't hear about it on RRW.* Perhaps the point is to destroy the myth of refugees as innocent victims and replace it with a more sinister image.* While this type of advocacy might do well with the already converted, it is unlikely to change many people's minds.* So my advice to RRW is, try to be a bit more subtle.* If you want to convince me that Dustin Hoffman is a crummy actor, you can't only talk to me about Ishtar.* You have to address The Graduate and (G-d forbid) Meet the Fockers.* My point being, unless RRW acknowledges in a meaningful way the positive aspects of the refugee and asylum programs, it will not have much legitimacy to address the negative aspects.


Second, while I am willing to* accept RRW's claim that it is not racist or xenophobic, it certainly provides a safe space for racists, xenophobes, and hatemongers.* A quick purview of the comments (and RRW's responses) demonstrates this pretty clearly.* Even the Center for Immigration Studies-a well known restrictionist group that has itself been (unjustly in my opinion) called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center-keeps a safe distance from RRW.* So my advice is, don't allow hateful and racist comments to go unchallenged.* When you actually demonstrate that you oppose racism and xenophobia, instead of just saying it on your "about us" page, people will take you more seriously.


Finally, many of the articles on RRW take a contemptuous tone towards refugees and advocates for refugees.* While these repeated-and often nasty-comments might be viscerally appealing to people who oppose (or hate) refugees, they are a big turn off to the unconverted.* My advice: Have a sense of humor and give people the benefit of the doubt, at least once in a while.* Everyone who advocates for refugees is not a self-serving, crypto-jihadist, and many refugees are simply ordinary people fleeing terrible circumstances.* A more respectful tone towards such people might actually win you some converts.


Of course, I don't expect RRW to listen to my advice (does anyone listen to advice these days anyway?). Perhaps they are satisfied speaking to a like-minded audience and avoiding honest debate with their political opponents.* To engage in a real discussion with people who have different views requires listening, humility, patience, and courage.* I know from personal experience that it is not always easy to engage in such discussions.* But that is how we learn and grow, and it is how we get closer to the truth.


Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.

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