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Five myths about refugees you might hear around the Thanksgiving table – and how to debunk them

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Is your anxiety about holiday gatherings higher than normal this year? We’ve compiled some facts to help you combat myths and misinformation about refugees that you might hear around the Thanksgiving table

Families around the country are coming together around Thanksgiving tables to catch up and reminisce. Try as you might to keep the conversation on Cousin Sally’s paleo diet or Uncle Bob’s homebrew, it will inevitably turn to politics.

If you’re like us, and like the majority of Americans, you’re dreading that moment.

Many of the most well-intentioned people, your relatives included, don’t know all the facts about the global refugee crisis and the refugees who come here to the US. In an effort to make these conversations easier, we’ve put together some talking points to help you combat myths and misinformation about refugees.

We hope these examples help you find ways to spread some knowledge as you pass the gravy this Thanksgiving.

Myth 1: “We don’t know who ‘these people’ are – or what they’re planning.”

Uncle Bob:President Trump keeps saying that we don’t know who these people are. They have no documentation, and we don’t know what they are planning.”

Me: “We’ve been welcoming refugees for almost 40 years and already have very thorough background checks and screenings for ALL refugees. The whole process can take over two years with all the required screenings, in-person interviews, investigations, and clearance by government agencies like Homeland Security and the FBI. For refugees from Iraq and Syria, we even scan their irises! Doesn’t that sound thorough to you?”

Myth 2: “But I’ve heard this country is flooded with refugees!”

Uncle Mike: “I’ve heard that we already have way more refugees than we can handle. Why should we take in more?”

Me: “Less than one percent of refugees ever make it to safe countries like the US. Yet despite there being more refugees around the world than ever before, this year President Trump decided to admit a record-low number of refugees – an 82 percent drop from previous years. The International Rescue Committee estimates that we’ll only bring in 15,000 refugees this year because of policy changes that amount to a mountain of red tape. There are 423 million people in the US. Don’t you think we can welcome in more than that?”

Myth 3: “Refugees don’t integrate into American culture. They’re never going to be ‘real Americans.’”

Cousin Joe: “Anyway, these refugees will never become real Americans and integrate into our culture.”

Me: “What makes you say that? The vast majority of refugees become American citizens, and they are more likely to start businesses than the rest of us. They also are nearly as likely to own homes as other Americans. Refugees give back so much to our culture – many famous American leaders like Albert Einstein and Madeline Albright were refugees themselves.

“Plus, on Thanksgiving, I shouldn’t have to remind you that our family came here from somewhere else.”

Myth 4: “Refugees cost the taxpayers too much.”

Aunt Sally: “I feel bad for refugees, but we also spend too much money helping other people when we need to help Americans first. People here are hurting, too.”

Me: “Refugees usually only get financial assistance for six months after they arrive in the US, and they even have to repay the cost of the flight to the US. With all those businesses they start, refugees contribute a lot to our economy and have even helped revitalize their communities. Anyway, helping refugees shouldn’t have to take away from Americans in need – we can do both.”

Myth 5: “The US can’t help everyone. We’re already doing enough to help refugees in other countries”

Cousin Linda: “I don’t know. Why don’t we just give more money to these countries so they can help more people?  Especially when so much of our tax dollars go toward helping others as Sally was saying.”

Me: “How much of the budget do you think goes to international programs to help with things like the refugee crisis?

Cousin Linda: “I would guess 20 percent or so.”

Me: “Nope. Less than one percent. So many Americans think that we’re spending a huge chunk of the budget on foreign aid, but that is not the case at all. Americans spend more money each year on candy than we do on helping people abroad! We can do much more both financially to help refugees across the world, and to help people find safety in our country.”

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