Refugee Families and Zero Tolerance

Conversation Guide

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The enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy on laws applying to asylum seekers has led to the separation of children from their families, and outrage has erupted. Many of the policies and laws being enforced are supported by people who believe–perhaps falsely–the refugees are criminals, entering the U.S. illegally. People also believe the enforcement is heartless–adding more trauma to people who are at-risk, fleeing violent circumstances. This conversation will explore our own experiences and how this informs our belief about what to do with all the people who want to move to the United States.

Background Information:

Political diversity is essential to some conversations. Especially with polarized topics, we encourage you to take extra care to include people who hold different political views. Engaging only with people who hold similar views can lead to further entrenchment of our own beliefs and more polarization. 
 
When inviting guests, consider all kinds of differences – age, culture, political leaning, gender – what voices are you most interested to hear from? What voices might best enrich your conversation?
 

Immigrant: An alien admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Permanent residents are commonly referred to as immigrants.

Refugee: Refugees are generally people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm. You may seek a referral for refugee status only from outside of the United States.

Asylum Seeker: Asylum status is a form of protection available to people who: 1) Meet the definition of refugee 2) Are already in the United States 3) Are seeking admission at a port of entry.

These are the legal definitions provided by the U.S. government. You can explore more here and here. While you don’t need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic.

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-7 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share and learn. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. Some hosts may offer a Q & A after Closing.

Introductions:
Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

Answer one or more of the following:
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are and what inspires you?
  • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?

Round 2:

Round 2: Refugee Families and Zero Tolerance (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. The group may choose to have everyone answer: A) whichever question speaks to them individually or B) the same question with an option to pass. Once everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for any clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring with other topic or related questions as time allows.

Remember that the goal of this Living Room Conversation is for each participant to listen to and learn about the different opinions within the group to see where you might share interests, intentions, and goals.

Answer one or more of the following:

  1. What has been your personal experience with refugees?
  2. What has been your experience of traveling to a foreign country?
  3. Asylum seekers are routinely detained until a decision is reached. What should be done with the children arriving with adults? Without adults?
  4. If your neighborhood became violent and there was no hope of restoring peace, would you stay?  Would you go?
  5. How would you like to treat people who want to emigrate to the U.S., without risking our national security?
  6. Do you have any concerns that refugee immigration would stretch our national services too far? If so share, why.  If not, share why not?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation?
  • What new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Name one important thing that was accomplished here.
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!

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