A year and a half ago I came back to my home state to mobilize American Christians to welcome and help with resettling those coming to our city with the resettlement program. When I began, I had to learn a ton about who refugees are and what is refugee resettlement. Do you know that many former refugees hate the term “refugee?” It can be very demeaning in some parts of the world where they came from. I often refer to them as my “international friends” out of respect. It has been the most incredible joy. I have made a ton of great friends. I have tasted the goodness of the gospel in amazing ways.
In the last year, a story has been told and repeated over and over again that is SO frustrating to anyone in the community who understands about refugee resettlement in the US. It is a complete myth (lie, fabrication, choose your word) and yet I hear it repeated every single day. It is the essence of our post-truth era. I explain and reexplain that it is false and then people argue with me who don’t know anything about refugee resettlement or international political situations.
Damaging myth of the year:
“We don’t know who they are.”
(and with this, we compare US refugee resettlement to what is happening in Europe.)
The equating of refugees entering Europe (and the threat from ISIS to infiltrate refugees) is a bad equation when comparing to the US resettlement program. European refugees are not the same as US refugees for one major reason: legal status.
Due to Europe’s accessibility to many of the crisis areas by land and a small sea, refugees have been able to surge onto the European continent by boat, on foot, and by being smuggled knowingly or unknowingly on lorries and trains. Any threat that refugees could have ISIS amongst the crowds in Europe as people move on foot and settle in refugee camps is entirely different than our refugees.
(I’d also like to point out that the threat that ISIS is amongst refugees mainly hurts refugees and is not worth blocking people out of sanctuary. )
The European ones are undocumented and have not been through all of the checks that are required for resettlement status in the US. The US refugee resettlement program has NEVER been a partisan issue. Until the last 12 months when one party began to repeat this line over and over again that: “we don’t know who refugees are.” And “What happened in Paris could happen here!” (actually did you know Paris was done by Belgian and French nationals? One paper said a Syrian passport was found near a body and that story has been repeated over and over again that it was Syrian refugees when it was debunked shortly after the attack.) and “we need to protect America from the refugees.”
Refugees are fleeing violence and persecution and we as a nation are MISSING it because of lies that are being repeated because we are so driven by partisan politics, and fear.
Fear is powerful.
Trump has closed our refugee program which is all about legal, documented and background checked refugees. It is not stopping an undocumented flow of refugees but people who have already waited in line and been through serious vetting to be granted permission to come live here legally.
In contrast to Europe, the US refugee resettlement program is a documented program. All of the refugees we receive have already had background checks, and vetting. The fastest they can arrive is 18 months to 24 months worth of processing and checks by all of our security agencies.
What this means is that many of the basic statements about refugees that have been repeated by the media and governors and the current administration for the last year are based on a wrong correlation between those entering Europe and those entering the US. It has been repeated that “we are in danger from Syrian refugees,” or “we don’t know who they (refugees) are,” or “we have a right to control who comes in our borders.” If you understand how the US refugee resettlement program works, you would understand:
We already do know who they are.
They have already been background checked. The US refugee resettlement program would be the longest and most inefficient gamble of a route to get to the US if you wanted to cause harm.
I will leave you with this.