Advocating for Refugees

Erica Eastley is a longtime friend of the blog. See her previous guest post here.

Around 6am on Wednesday morning as I was watching the US election results in my time zone, I posted on Facebook that I hoped refugees would still be welcome in the US after the vote was counted. As the hours disappeared while I sat stunned on the couch with my teenagers next to me, that hope slipped away.  When I learned that Mormons had supported Trump by a large majority, I was even more troubled by the result.

I do not believe that a majority of Mormons or other Trump supporters voted for him because they actively support racism and xenophobia. I do believe that every voter needs to realize that they own the negative parts of their vote as well as the positive.  I won’t rehash Trump’s negatives, but might I suggest that one way we begin to make amends for those negatives is to recommit to the refugee relief effort.

There are so many ways to support refugees.  I posted this google doc here in May with ideas of ways to get educated and to get started.  I heard from people who had donated to resettlement agencies, signed up to sponsor newly arriving families, gathered supplies for welcome kits, and so much more.  The Church’s refugee site has videos highlighting things members have done. In the last few weeks, the Church has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to several different refugee resettlement agencies in the US.  The worldwide refugee crisis is far from over and tens of thousands more refugees have been resettled in the US since April with more coming, at least until January 20th.

While it’s notoriously difficult to have any idea what Trump might do in office, he consistently targeted refugees throughout the campaign from last October to a final rally in Minnesota on November 6th. Mike Pence promised unequivocally in the VP debate that he and Donald Trump are committed to shutting down the Syrian refugee program.  Despite the rigorous and effective vetting program that is in place, Trump has misstated throughout the campaign that refugees are not vetted.  There is a very real risk that Trump will end or severely curtail refugee resettlement from at least some if not most countries, especially since he refuses to believe the current vetting system is not safe.  The president has unilateral control over the number of refugees that are resettled in the US.

There are so many ways we can stand up against this to advocate for refugees.  First, make sure any refugees and other immigrants in your area know you want them there.  Even a smile makes a big difference. Continue donating to or volunteering with local agencies or organizations and make sure they know your community still welcomes refugees. Like their Facebook pages so you know their current needs. If you are having trouble finding a way to help locally, let me know.

Talk with your friends, neighbors, and your community leaders about refugee resettlement. Correct misinformation about refugees and try to get the facts out about refugee resettlement. The campaign incited a lot of fear, resentment, and false information against refugees and it’s important to end that.  Here’s a post I wrote with some educational resources and this is a FAQ about refugee resettlement in the US.

Work with your city council members and tell them you welcome refugees in your town.  Call them, talk to them at a city council meeting, send a letter.  Encourage like-minded friends to do the same.  Communities can send a message that refugees are welcome.

Contact your state and Congressional representatives, again with a phone call or a letter rather than an email.  Tell them your state needs to welcome refugees. Tell them the US needs to welcome refugees. Ask them to increase funding for refugee resettlement or at least not to cut funding as has been proposed. Click here to find out how to contact your House representative and here for your Senators.  Do this with your friends or RS sisters.

Finally, refugee support groups are getting ready to increase their political advocacy.  I have contacted all of the resettlement agencies and am posting updates about their advocacy as I receive them on this Facebook page about welcoming refugees.  That page also has lots of suggestions and encouragement for supporting refugees and immigrants and includes a link to a website with the information from the original google doc. You can also check the advocacy ideas from World Relief and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

I know that many members of the Church do not have refugees in their communities.  I don’t in my current city.  I think it is best to work directly with refugees if possible but political advocacy can be done from anywhere in the world, depending on your local circumstances.  We can all help.

To be clear, I do not think supporting refugees is the only or best way to oppose Trumpism or to oppose what you might not like in Trump if you voted for him.  It’s far from the only good cause. You can donate to the ACLU, support Planned Parenthood, volunteer with transgender teenagers, and do so many other things to sustain communities that are at greater risk today than they were on election morning.  Get out and do something.  However, I believe that supporting refugees can be a cause that appeals to conservative Mormons more than the suggestions above do.  We have work to do.


  1. Even before the election, I have considered shifting all of my tithing payments into the humanitarian fund, much of which currently goes to refugee assistance.

    A God who values above the succor of the afflicted yet another temple in places within two hours’ drive of an existing one, however crowded it may be on a Saturday morning; subsidized university tuition for the children of people in the wealthiest decile of the human population; and the salaries of Pharisaic bureaucrats: this is not the God I have come to know through prayer and study.

  2. Not to detract too much from the point of the post, but it is worth noting that more people in Utah voted for a candidate other than Trump. Trump received 46.3% of the vote; Romney received 72.6% in 2012. Even if you add in McMullin’s portion of the vote (20%), it is still less than the portion that went for the GOP in 2012. It’s too early to call it by sheer numbers, but so far it looks like turnout was lower than 2012, too, so I think it may be safe to say many (though certainly not all) Mormons disapproved of Trump.

  3. Ellie, exit polling in Utah found that 70% of very active Mormons voted for Trump. That was the number that hit me hardest.

  4. A noble and Christlike position would be to seek to persuade others to take those burdens upon ourselves and show Christlike love and compassion in the face of inevitable hatred toward our culture by some of the refugees.

    Unfortunately, the current position is to mislead and say that nothing will go wrong and it will be ok, and if you disagree you’re a bigot. But here’s the truth — the reason we are vetting is precisely because we (including the Obama admin) are concerned about importing terrorists. So if terrorism is a concern (and everyone agrees it is) reasonable people should be able to disagree if the extent we are going is not only sufficient enough, but more importantly practical at the cost we pay to accomplish that resettlement.

    So what we have to ask ourselves is what’s the better outcome:
    -Spend $50million importing 10,000 individuals, 1 or 2 might be linked to terrorism in some future case.
    -Spend $50million resettling 30,000 individuals throughout the middle east in a safe, culturally similar environment.

    I am very much in favor of helping people closer to home. That means:
    – Solving the problem in Syria so the people there can actually begin to rebuild.
    – Helping the people fleeing the warzones right now.

    It’s a terrible policy to look at 1million people fleeing a collapsing country and say, “We’ll start interviewing a handful of you and send a few thousand back to the United States if you’re lucky.” All the people need help; we should help them in their immediate circumstances, not give a lottery ticket to a lucky few and presume job well done while the rest suffer.

    To the ones that are already here, I whole heartily agree that we should help integrate them into society in a charitable way. But it’s not simply foolish, but just bad policy to spend so much to help so comparatively few when we could spend the same amount and help more closer to home.

    It seems the least effective way to help as many people as possible from the third world by importing them to the most expensive nations in the world. With that long comment in mind, is anyone aware of charities one can donate to that are actively removing refugees to a safe place in the Middle East?

  5. Erica,
    70% of active Mormons in Utah did not vote for Trump. Trump had 360,000 people in Utah vote for him. Certainly not all were Mormon. And not all were active Mormon. When it’s all said and done, you might be looking at 100,000 active Mormons.

    740,000 Utahns voted for Romney. 600,00 for McCain. 660,00 for Bush. So you can see how poorly Trump faired in comparison.

  6. Just saw the updated numbers for Trump that shows 420k votes for Trump. Still way below any prior winner, and clearly demonstrates that most Mormons in Utah didn’t support Trump.

  7. For any readers in Utah, I would suggest donating or volunteering with the Granite School District. They serve around 70% of utah’s refugees and are in need of everything from diapers to laundry detergent to childcare volunteers. My family is collecting donations for refugees for the first time, and getting started was very much a reaction to the outcome of the election. I agree wholeheartedly with this post – let’s react to negativity and bigotry with positivity and love.

    APM, my husband and I have compromised on our tithing and split our 10% evenly between tithing, fast offerings, and the humanitarian fund. I think the Lord understands and it eases my heart.

  8. We did not participate in Hallowe’en this year. Instead of buying candy, we donated those funds to the humanitarian fund.

  9. I feel no need to make amends for my political opinions. Please stop trying to guilt people. The plight of refugees is sufficient on its own to call forth our best efforts to help. You have done them a disservice by tying the two together.

  10. Linda, the two ‘are’ tied together. Erica didn’t do that. Calling out Trump for his false statements about the vetting process for refugees is does not disservice refugees.

  11. TIST, I’m curious where you’re getting your numbers about settling refugees and the cost. As well as any relevant information about how many refugees can be easily be settled in what Middle Eastern countries.

  12. Trump got at least a plurality of Mormon votes, and he won Utah. That’s less horrible than it might have been, but it’s still horrible. Instead of trying to minimize that fact, we ought to work against the terrible things to come. Refugee relief is an excellent way to do that. And I hope we gladly accept Syrian refugees into our communities, expensive though that process may be. If we still believe in our country as a beacon to the world, then our example is indispensable; we must do more than just pay for others to do the hard work.

  13. The Middle East area already has an obscene number of refugees. Turkey has 2.5 million, Pakistan has 1.6 million, Lebanon has 1.1 million, and Iran has close to 1 million. The Middle East is full of refugees.

    And safe environments in the Middle East? I know enough about Pakistan to know that it’s not safe for Christians, and probably not for other groups as well. Turkey and Lebanon may be relatively safe, but most of the Middle East is not. And refugee camps aren’t exactly the best place to be living.

    Refugees in the U.S., however, are not placed in camps. They’re integrated into their communities, they have the opportunity to get jobs and work. The refugees I know in the U.S. work on potato and dairy farms and in factories. We have the opportunity–and the responsibility, if we’re Christian–to do what we can to offer others the same opportunities.

    V School, based in Provo, recently sent a team of teachers to Lebanon to teach computer programming to students in the refugee camps. Lifting Hands International, based out of Arizona and run by a BYU alumni, provides help to both refugees in Arizona and to refugee camps in Greece. A refugee center in Twin Falls provides assistance to refugees in that area, despite resistance from the alt-right. There’s a lot of good work to be done, and a lot of ways to do it.

  14. Kristine N says:

    Pakistan isn’t safe for Muslims. A friend of mine is from there and Muslim. She’s lost family members to other Pakistanis because they ‘aren’t Muslim enough.’

  15. TIST, the exit polling is not based on the number of people who voted. The exit polling was conducted by David Magleby at BYU. He been doing this since 1983.

    Creating safe spaces in the Middle East is not a long-term solution. That is what refugee camps are – safe places for people while the best permanent solutions can be found. The number one priority of the UN is to help refugees go home or to resettle in their second country. This is not possible for Syrian refugees. Their children are not being educated. Parents cannot find jobs. Healthcare is not widely available. People cannot be self-sufficient in a camp or safe zone. It is simply not possible.

    The sheer number of refugees in the countries surrounding Syria that was mentioned above is staggering. If nothing else. It is unwise to to force those surrounding countries to do almost everything for refugees because of the political and economic instability throughout the region. 10 countries with a combined GPD of less than 2.5% of world GDP are hosting over half of the world’s refugees. We unquestionably can find the resources to help.

  16. TIST, UNHCR is a great place to donate to if you want to help refugees in the Middle East get to a safe place.

    Linda, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for voting for Trump. I do think it’s disingenuous if Trump voters don’t accept that he has some serious negatives and this is one of many ways for his voters to stand up against those negatives.

    Thanks for the other suggestions of how to help.

  17. It’s funny how a political bloc that has conservative religion as its primary binding force rebels so strongly against having to feel guilt about the consequences of its actions.

    Then again, you could say that about the cultural left in this country, too. I am convinced that the desire not to have to feel guilty about anything, not to apologize or do penance, is the animating spirit of the age.

  18. Electing Trump is a massive screw-up, but I’m not interested in laying guilt on Trump voters either. I just want them to take responsibility for setting things right. All of us need to carry that responsibility, no matter who we voted for.

  19. I simply fail to see that we need to make amends for any statements Donald Trump has made. I am not responsible for his words. He is not even president yet. He certainly did not cause the refugee crisis in Syria. If you voted for Obama, maybe you should be making amends to all rhose driven from their homes by Assad or ISIS. If he had kept his word, they might still be in their homes. Perhaps we can lay the blame where it belongs.

  20. Karen C, if you don’t have a problem with the rhetoric Trump used during the campaign, then this post might not be for you. If you are concerned, supporting refugees is one of the many ways to help lessen the effects of his negative rhetoric.

    One reason why I think the US has an obligation to take in refugees from the Middle East is because of the impact our involvement in that region of the world for the last 70 years. I appreciate that both Bush and Obama made a point of speaking appropriately about Muslims and Islam during their presidencies. I hope Trump chooses to do the same.

    But again, this is not about blame. Instead, we all bear the responsibility to set things right, like Loursat said about.

  21. Karen, when you inked in the circle next to his name (or however they vote in your jurisdiction), you implicitly said, “Yes, I support for the highest office in the land this man–who has said an incredible number of racist things, lies as glibly as Saddam Hussein’s propaganda minister, has called for the sort of registration of religious minorities that historically precedes appalling human rights abuses, threatens the press, approvingly retweets quotes by Mussolini and enthusiastically endorses dictators, has told ethnic minorities that the only way they can be safe is if they forfeit their Fourth Amendment rights, and has been caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault–because I prefer his position on issues [X1, X2, … , Xn] to the next most likely candidate to be elected.” Sorry if you don’t want to think of it that way, but that’s what you did, and you’re gonna have to live with it. If you don’t feel guilty, that’s on you, but don’t complain when others try to call you to repentance. Lord only knows plenty of LDS Republicans have for decades tried to make other Saints feel guilty for not voting the “right” way.

    The purity of your motives is irrelevant to the consequences of your actions. No, he’s not even president yet, but already at least one person has died because Trump’s election has emboldened thugs to start physically attacking groups that the candidate you support has attacked verbally, and we’re only a month out from the election. Someone else may have pulled the trigger, but your vote helped cock the gun.

    But go ahead, tell me that things would be so much worse if there were an additional liberal on the Supreme Court. Go on.

  22. Correction: only a week out. Feels like a month, honestly.

  23. Erica
    And I suppose when bombs start going off in cafes, theaters, and buses you’re still feel the same way about the refugees? Get your head out of the sand.

    Let’s examine something that’s thrown up frequently the fact that they say it’s a minority of Muslims that support this religious violence. 1% of 2 billion Muslims is 20 million people. That’s a lot of tiny minority that can wreak havoc around the planet. But I think the majority of Muslims support this religious violence not a minority.

  24. Ronkonkoma, I addressed your concerns in the FAQ I linked above if you’re interested in some facts and data. I do not think that LDS Church leaders would encourage members to do something dangerous. Instead, they are asking members to help the most vetted immigrants in the US.

    I am concerned about the misinformation that is being spread by so many about one of the most vulnerable groups of people in the world. I have read the facts and talked to refugee officers and people in resettlement agencies. More importantly, I have talked to refugees themselves. I have been in refugee camps in the Middle East. I have been in the homes of Muslim refugees in the Middle East and in the US. They have been in my home. I see no reason to fear.

  25. Ronkonkoma, I realized that I didn’t address your second paragraph. Your assertion that a majority of Muslims support religious violence is not supported by facts. While everyone can have an opinion, I am concerned when people’s opinions are inflammatory, whether they come from an internet commenter or Trump himself. We can stand up for good.

  26. Bill Smith says:

    I have an idea. How about we demand our leaders quit waging war and destroying the countries these refugees come from? Oh wait. We can’t do that. Because most mormons are republicans, who vastly grew these wars under Bush. Oh no. The rest are democrats, who under Obama extended and grew the programs Bush created. Instead of fixing the problem (US waging preemptive war), we as a nation are running around trying to find ways to “help” all the refugees. The best thing we could do as a people is reject both the democrats/republicans support of the military industrial complex and demand an end of the wars that are destroying these peoples lives. We as a nation are the ones that have caused all these mass migrations.

  27. I would love to see more activism against war. But no matter who is to blame for the many conflicts around the world that are creating the current crisis, refugees need help and the US is able to offer assistance.

  28. Ronkonkoma says:

    They are planning attacks here in the USA mosques. See the writing on the wall for what it is.

  29. Ronkonkoma, your comments reflect fear, ignorance, and un-Christlike attitudes. Hard to believe you are Mormon. Perhaps you’re not. The Church itself has donated to these efforts and supports them. Find another venue for your hate.

  30. Ronkonkoma, you gots 2 chill.

  31. Brian
    Suicide bombings are a reality not something born out of ignorance. Yes I realize the church is supporting refugee efforts but there is still a huge element of danger here. In Merry Old England never were your enemies permitted to live among you.

  32. Nobody here is claiming suicide bombings aren’t something to take seriously. I understand your view: you consider Muslims to be enemies. That is the view I was referring to in my post at 10am this morning. Please move on.

  33. Could we kindly address the words used in the original post. The author said we could make amends for our votes by helping refugees. I totally fail to see how the two are related unless we wish to include President Obama’s actions. Are all those who voted for him being called upon to make amends for his actions, which actually had something to do with the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq?
    APM: when you inked in the circle next to Obama’s name (or however they vote in your jurisdiction), you implicitly said, Yes, I implicitly support the failure to act to protect millions of Syrians, allowing them to be bombed to death by Assad and Putin. I take full responsibility for my vote and therefore am responsible for the deaths of over 200,000 people there and the creation of millions of refugees. Let’s start with the facts of what caused this refugee crisis.
    And Erica, if you cannot address the facts as they happened, maybe this post is not for you.

  34. William K, during the campaign Trump and Pence explicitly stated that they want to end the Syrian refugee program and that refugees are not being vetted even though they are the most vetted immigrant group in the US. The president has unilateral control over the number of refugees entering the US and from which countries. Trump has stated that his win legitimized his rhetoric on the campaign trail. So yes, I think Trump voters do bear some responsibility here. We need to make our voices heard.

    If y’all want to argue about whose fault the worldwide refugee crisis is from Burma to DR Congo to Syria, have at it. But that will do *nothing* for the people who actually need help right now.

  35. William, Erica’s post does not address the cause of the crisis. The end of your comment makes no sense.

  36. Man this should not be complicated. Refugees need help. Christians help people. We should help refugees.

    It’s easy. Quit acting like assigning blame to a politician absolves you of the responsibility to help others.

  37. Brian, I was echoing Erica’s comment to Karen back to her. I thought she might recognize the inappropriateness of her response to Karen’s comment if it was repeated back to her. It is in extremely poor taste to try to shut someone out of the conversation in the way she did.
    The refugee crisis is a grave concern. But trying to connect it to Trump’s campaign speeches is ludicrous. It existed well before Trump began his campaign. Obama is the current president and has been for eight years. If he wanted to solve it, why didn’t he do more? If he wanted to really solve it, why didn’t he stop Assad?

  38. I honestly did not believe that anyone could take such a worthy cause as refugee relief and make it something I did not want to participate in.
    But Erica, you have succeeded.

  39. William, I understand, your mirroring. But at least Erica’s comment made sense in context of the post and Karen’s comment. Yours doesn’t. Again, this post is not about how it happened, but what to do about it. And Trump’s response and the Church’s are very different.

    Janet, William, Ronkonkoma, Bill, Karen, TIST, and Linda–a good (what, at least 50%?) of the posters here demonstrate to me something deeply disturbing: clearly there are people are out there (Mormon) who are profoundly bothered by a criticism of voting for Trump to the point that they are willing to “throw out the baby with the bathwater”–in this case, caring for refugees. Wether they have said in so many words or not, they have exhibited a much stronger desire to be “right” than to be “good” towards refugees–and this because of (at least as demonstrated here, a loyalty to something else: Trump, anti-war stances, the economy, etc.)

    To follow my own criticism and be charitable. I do understand, as does Erica, each of those concerns. They are real and should not be minimized. Erica’s work on helping refuges has been ongoing before Trump’s win (as the link to her earlier post demonstrates.) Her call is intensified by the hateful and damaging rhetoric of Trump in regards to refugees–and though she is careful to hedge her statements to make clear she doesn’t feel everyone who voted for Trump agrees with his stance, clearly nesting her concern in reference to Trump, ruffles many feathers. I understand that. For all us, let’s not abrasions dissuade us from Christian help.

  40. Brian, William’s mirroring comment makes perfect sense to me. Erica tried to shut someone out of commenting further because they disagreed with her choice of tying helping refugees with making amends for Trump’s statements. Implicit in that is the idea that someone needs to make amends because they voted for Trump. Or perhaps just because they live in a country where he spoke. The problem in the original post is the word ‘amends’. The posters are not against helping refugees. They are against tying that action to some idea that the US owes the people of the Middle East because of some supposed evil we have committed against them for the last 70 years. Or that we owe it because we need to make amends for the political rhetoric of a man who had nothing to do with forcing these people to flee their homes.Telling someone that a blog post is not the place for them is ridiculous. If you post online, you need to be open to people disagreeing with your ideas or the way you have written them. The real world is not a collegiate safe space where the only people allowed to write are those who agree with you. If Erica had left her politics out of the OP, this might have been a useful discussion. But she did not. So the comments have focused on those politics and on the percentage of Mormons who may have voted for Trump. I feel there was an underlying attempt to shame people for their vote.

  41. I apologize that I made it look like I was trying to shut Karen C out. I should have communicated more clearly. I meant that I didn’t expect everyone to like the post, not that I wanted to shut down anyone’s comments.

    This post was in direct response to the election because of Trump’s disturbing rhetoric and his explicit promises to ban at least certain types of refugees. It was intended to be political because I already wrote a non-political post about refugees here a few months ago. I wish refugee resettlement had been discussed fairly and accurately during the campaign, but that was impossible. I knew that the way I phrased some things would ruffle some feathers, but I think some feathers need ruffling right now. We can either accept Trump’s negatives, we can hope they won’t be so bad, or we can try to do something about them no matter how we voted.

  42. Erica, brilliant post. Thank you for the work you do and your attempts to bring attention to it here on BCC. You deserve a medal just for handling the comments as well as you have.

  43. Martha Kay says:

    The choice to write a political post and tie it to the election was unfortunate. I believe you undercut your cause.

  44. Methinks the Trump voters protest too much…

  45. Zoroastrian Kurd says:

    advocating for Muslim Syrian refugees, in light of San Bernardino and Orlando massacres, is suicidal. There are plenty of groups that are 1000% times less dangerous if you want to virtue-signal by taking in refugees.

  46. San Bernardino: attack by a U.S. citizen by birth and his wife, who came to the U.S. on a fiance visa. Neither had connections to Syria.

    Orlando: attack by U.S. citizen by birth, whose parents were from Afghanistan. No connections to Syria.

    Are there safer groups than Syrian refugees to take in? Possibly. Unfortunately, the Danes and Swedes have absolutely no desire to become refugees in the U.S.

  47. I think you are overlooking the hundreds of thousands of people arriving on our southern borders from Central America. Honduras is a nightmare of violence right now. We can help them without involving ourselves in the Middle Eastern quagmire.

  48. Tim at 5:53
    We have been taught not to return railing for railing. You are escalating the contention. Please stop.

  49. Yup, the Trump supporters don’t seem to be able to help themselves.

  50. I live in Utah County. I was struck by the almost complete absence of Trump yard signs in this area before the election. I have also seen very few Trump bumper stickers compared to the usual show of support around here for any other Republican presidential nominee. As it turned out, here in this county, Trump got more votes than McMullin, Clinton and Johnson combined. I have the powerful sense that a lot of Trump voters feel divided, and many probably feel embarrassed or ashamed about their vote. Now, in this thread, we get a lot of hypersensitive people pushing back against criticism of Trump, as if they feel personally attacked. That seems consistent with what I’ve seen.

    If you voted for Trump, you don’t want to be reminded of the evil things he stands for. I get that. But how can we do anything other than take Trump at his word? For more than a year, he campaigned on bigotry, he flaunted his ignorance, and he encouraged the most coarse and uncivil treatment of others—including refugees. Ignoring the danger he poses might make you feel better for a while, but it won’t make the danger go away. So some of us are not going to ignore the danger, even if that makes you uncomfortable.

  51. There are many refugees from the middle east and Africa living in Utah, most in the Rose Park/North Salt Lake area, many of whom are from Syria. I’ve been involved with a Utah Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) who have an annual service project on Christmas eve and Christmas day that provides food items, blankets and winter clothes to about 100 refugee families, as well as seniors. If you would like to get involved, email Scott Klepper, Organizing Committee member, at

  52. Thanks for the info, Bro. B. My family has been thinking about doing a service project for Christmas this year, and that might be perfect.

  53. Zoroastrian Kurd says:


    Yeah, “US citizen” by birth, but progeny of mistaken/statisticallly very dangerous admittees. Danes/Swedes not only less-danerous peeps–Hindus, Buddhists, Yazidis come to mind. Why shootyourself in foot for PC reasons?

  54. That’s a repulsive view. Take it elsewhere.

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