The Enemy Immigrants: Who They Are is Who We Are
Thomas Royal Nimen ||| 7 April 2017
The issue of refugees has spurred an identity crisis in the United States, particularly so with President Trump’s coupling America’s greatness with his motives to establish walls and vet immigrants. Although the President’s tactics seem more appropriate for a post WWII-Cold War-pre-civil rights era, it should be remembered that in 2016 alone, almost 85,000 refugees entered the US from Congo, Syria, Burma, Iraq, Somalia, Bhutan, Iran, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Eritrea, and other countries.
Refugees leave home because their home countries are ensconced in violent civil and sectarian wars unearthing millions of people forcing them to seek safety abroad and to face life-threatening circumstances along the way.
But there are other motives for seeking asylum. Within refugee-generating countries, women and children bear a huge burden of violence and upheaval either as direct targets or fallout victims from conflicts. Additionally, each country listed above is cited for civil rights abuses toward their LGBT populations, who face governmental-culturally endorsed imprisonment, violence, and death.
Yet while there is a wealth of media documenting the dire circumstances driving people to abandon homes and loved ones and to seek asylum on foreign soil, there is anxiety and resistance from countries faced with growing refugee populations. Can taxpayers afford to support scores of thousands of people seeking asylum, and what is our moral obligation? By letting refugees into our borders, do we contaminate or forfeit our identity altogether?
While the questions may be similar for refugee-hosting countries, the answers are unique, because each country is effected differently. But for the United States, accepting or rejecting refugees causes confrontation, because on one hand, absorbing refugees is organic to our identity, and unless we are of Native American heritage, we too must embrace the identity of a refugee.
On the other hand, the 21st century refugee issues have exposed fissures in our perspectives toward diversity by introducing non-European peoples from backgrounds and places that at first glance seem, well, un-American, and this fissure mirrors similar anxieties Americans face amidst expanding economic and cultural globalization. To complicate matters further, issues driving refugees from these war-torn places often, if not always, bear US fingerprints shaping the conflicts and in many instances, exacerbating them.
Ultimately, the reason to support refugees is hard-wired into American identity. The most powerful country on Earth thrives with refugees, and we are the most successful diversity experiment in the world’s history. It is in our best interest to lend support to refugees: people fleeing war; those harmed and exploited for their gender or religious beliefs; and LGBT communities suffering harassment and violence.
The Spectra Project offers emergency support to LGBT refugees, who often have no access to basic needs of hygiene, food, shelter, or education. Further, it partners with research institutions to reveal data on refugee issues and issues faced by refugees and the LGBT communities in the Middle East/North African region. It advances policy to support cross-cultural diversity and LGBT inclusion. Learn more about them at spectraproject.org.
Pew Research Center: