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!

This Living Room Conversation flows through three rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.

Before You Begin...

Please go over the Conversation Agreements with your participants.

Introductions: Getting Started/
Why Are We Here?

Round 1: Core Values

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

Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals. Answer ​one or more of the following questions:
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: Reflection & Next Steps

Answer ​one or more​ 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?

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