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Jenny Martinez hugs her son, William Martinez, as they talk to the media about her trip from El Salvador and her need for asylum in America because of domestic violence and her fear for her life as they join with protesters in front of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

How to Support Refugees in a Racist Time

By Ashley Houghton, Tactical Campaigns Manager, Amnesty International USA

“What you just said made me very uncomfortable, and what did you mean when you said ________?”

“The statement you made struck me as really sad. Don’t you think we should treat all people equally, no matter their skin color or country of origin?”

“Can you explain your viewpoint to me?”

When addressing discriminatory statements or behaviors, the offending party will usually respond back in a defensive posture. Be ready to listen to them but at the same time hold them accountable for the impact of their actions.

“I think you and I can both agree that the country is particularly divided right now. Do you think this kind of statement divides the country further?”

“I think you and I can both agree that the U.S. aspires to treat people equally, no matter what someone’s skin color is or what language they speak or where they were born. Do you think our policies should follow those same values?”

“Both of us are scared and want to feel safe. I feel less safe when I hear statements like this. I believe we’re stronger when we stand united as people of all faiths and backgrounds, and we’re weaker when we let statements like these divide us as a country and look at innocent people with distrust. What do you think?”

This won’t always work, and this isn’t a foolproof method. People need to talk through their feelings many times as they form an opinion about something like refugee rights. But if you start a conversation with someone who makes shocking statements like the president’s, you may find a new ally in the fight to increase the number of refugees allowed into the country.

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