Speaking up for asylum

We need everyone to speak up for asylum seekers. You are the most important spokesperson when it comes to influencing your friends and family! Here are some talking points to help you. We have also included tips on talking about immigration in general because this often comes up.

Step #1 Personal stories are more effective in encouraging empathy than facts and figures. After telling a story to encourage empathy, you can ask the audience how they would feel in the position of the asylum seeker in your story. You can find personal stories about individuals who are seeking asylum through the Kino Border Initiative, our collaborator on the southern border. For instance, you can read Belicia’s story here: https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/migrant-story-belicia/

Step #2 If you receive pushback, ask questions instead of arguing. As much as possible, agree with what you hear to disarm your audience. Try to get their story. When they complain about something, say “It sounds like you’re worried about…” and relate it to something asylum seekers are going through. Learn what matters to your audience and use that to encourage empathy.

Step #3 Finally, offer a suggestion for the audience to act on what you’ve told them. The feeling of accomplishment from that concrete action will inspire the audience to do more good work!

Remember: You might not change the mind of the person you’re directly talking to, but you might change the minds of people listening. And vulnerable people will notice if no one stands up for them.

Media requests: While it is important to spread the word about asylum seekers coming to Rutland through Bridge to Rutland, please refer all media requests to our Executive Director at bridgetorutland@gmail.com or 802-779-4217. Thank you!

Common Myths about Immigration

  1. It is a myth that the percentage of immigrants is rising. The foreign-born population of the USA is the same as it was in the late 19th century. Racist laws at the time meant that most of those immigrants were white.
  2. It is a myth that immigrants are a drain on the economy or that they steal jobs.
    • Immigrants are almost twice as likely to have doctorates; they encourage innovation.
    • Asylum seekers and both documented and undocumented immigrants pay taxes.
    • Documented immigrants are not eligible for social security benefits until they have paid into the system for a while.
    • Undocumented immigrants are crucial to agriculture and industry, doing low paid work that people born in the country won’t do. This keeps prices down for consumers.
  3. It is a myth that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes. Actual statistics show that this is false. Asylum is legal.
  4. It is a myth that a border wall will stop immigration. People find ways across the border even when a wall is present. And walls that block all traffic are harmful to the environment because they prevent the regular movement of animals.
  5. It is a myth that asylum support groups want open borders. We want legal and humane policies.

Sources: https://www.brookings.edu/research/a-dozen-facts-about-immigration/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/illegal-immigrants-us-jobs-economy-farm-workers-taxes/

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/us/immigrants-arent-taking-americans-jobs-new-study-finds.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/how-trump-us-mexico-border-wall-could-impact-environment-wildlife-water

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/15/us/taxes-undocumented-immigrants/index.html

Frequently asked questions about immigration

 Asylum seekersRefugeesDocumented immigrantsUndocumented immigrants
Are they breaking the law by coming?No, it is legal to enter the country to request asylum.No, refugees are legally recognized before they enter.No, documented immigrants enter legally on visas.Most undocumented immigrants overstay their visa, which falls under civil—not criminal—statue. So they aren’t criminals.
How likely are they to commit crimes?All immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the USA.All immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the USA.All immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the USA.Undocumented immigrants are more unlikely to commit crimes if only because they’re afraid of being noticed and deported.
Why are they coming here?They have a credible fear of harm of they stay in their country.They have a credible fear of harm if they stay in their country.They may come for many reasons.They may come for many reasons.
How do they enter the country?They cross the border and then ask for asylum.They receive recognition as refugees before they enter.They get a visa before entering the country.Usually they overstay their visa, but sometimes they cross the border without a visa.
How much financial support do they have when they enter the country?They are completely reliant on the support of friends, family, and volunteers in their community until can start working.The government provides some financial support, but it is less than social security support for people who have paid into the system for years.NoneNone
When can they start working?6 months after they receive legal recognition  ImmediatelyDepends on what their visa saysDepends on finding willing employers
Do they pay taxes?YesYesYesThey pay billions of taxes every year in tax returns filed and in taxes deducted from paychecks because they want to show that they have good moral character when they apply for recognition. They’re unprotected taxpayers.
Can they receive social security benefits?Yes, once they have been working long enough.Yes, once they have been working long enough.If they have visas allowing them to work and are permanent legal residents.Not unless they arrived as children and received recognition under DACA.

Tips for messaging

Instead of saying thisSay thisExplanation
“illegal aliens”“New American immigrants”Most undocumented immigrants overstay their visa, which falls under civil—not criminal—statue. And seeking asylum is legal. The word “alien” emphasizes difference when we want to be pointing out similarities.
“give rights to immigrants”“stop unfair barriers” or “protect freedoms”We’re not asking for favors or for “scary” changes. We just want peoples’ rights to be fairly enforced. And there are a lot of unfair contradictions in immigration law.
“hate”“love”We should be talking more about our own values than the values of the people we disagree with.
“racist bigots”“radicals”   versus   real people with namesThe USA’s immigration laws have historically favored Anglo-Americans. But white supremacists hide that by talking as if American ideals of freedom are open to everyone. So use that to your advantage, pointing out that we only want everyone to have a share in what the American Dream supposedly promises to everyone. Instead of arguing about abstract concepts of racism, focus on concrete actions with real flesh-and-blood people and your own values of inclusion.
“identity politics”“bring everyone to the table”The term “identity politics” is usually used by people complaining about the white supremacist status quo. So ignore it. Because these phrases already have meanings for them that don’t necessarily exist for you, whenever you use their words, you’re letting them control the narrative. Instead, use your own words to focus on your own values of inclusion.

Practice, practice, practice

This isn’t easy work, but it is important. Mistakes are just lessons to help you do better next time. And every effort helps! So thank you!

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