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.