What does Trump say about Refugees?

Back home, I often find myself trying to calm down my friends about the dangers that our current president poses to the United States. I try to push that Trump isn’t representative of the people he represents, that he doesn’t pose the long-term threat that we have often fatalistically assumed that he does. In the end, there will be change, and things will be alright.

On our first day inside of the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) compound in Kampala, we stopped inside a classroom where refugees were gathered to learn English. We introduced ourselves, telling them who we were, where we were from, and how we had come to film about a documentary about their struggle. Before we left, we took a few questions.

“What does Trump say about refugees?”

My mind wondered immediately to last year, when Trump had reportedly asked in a cabinet meeting why the U.S. had to accept so many immigrants from “shithole” countries like Nigeria, a relatively well-off African state. The people in this room have come from the Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and other places in east Africa that are far more worse off and hopeless then Nigeria.

I thought the journalists were supposed to be the ones asking the hard questions.

Trying to calm someone down about the effects our president can have on futures and outcomes becomes so much worse when the stakes of those futures and outcomes are as high as they are for a refugee. Most of my friends will come out alright from Trump, but that might not be the same case for these people.

“What does Trump say about refugees?”

How do you explain those remarks to someone who is so desperate for stability and a better life? How do you explain that even if our president doesn’t support them, there is a huge body of people who recognize the problems they face and wishes to receive them with open arms?

In a lot of ways, many of the same things that I tell my friends back home can be repeated back to these people. That Trump isn’t a dictator, just one of many parts in our democracy. That not everything he does is going to hurt them, and that what does most likely isn’t permanent. A new president will come along, and they will make new decisions. Hopefully, the injustices that the president commits will again one day be made right. People are constantly fighting to make sure that happens, and in the end, you may just have to trust in the process.

But my friends aren’t spending the next two and a half years or more separated from family and loved ones, living in a culture that isn’t their own. Our problems seem small in comparison.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The moral arch of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

It’s a quote that I’ve often taken to heart when I look at the problems that the world faces, when I feel I’m losing hope in change and a better future. It helps to stop and remember the world has improved, and that improvement cannot stop.

But there’s a danger in going too far into this long-term, idealistic thinking. People in the present are facing problems in past or future, they are facing them now. Problems are not something can be solved simply by letting them lay fallow. It requires work and dedication, commitment to that better future.

The refugee crisis is not something that can just be waited out. The decisions that we’re making at home have an affect not only on the people that are at home, but across the world. Decisions that are pressing, and very well could affect someone’s life.

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