“How long has it been since you had calm, reasoned discussion with someone you don’t agree with on a public issue you care about?” The Center for the Student of Citizenship offered this type of conversation about refugee resettlement in the United States on Feb. 21.
The series of Citizen Dialogues offered by the Center for the Study of Citizenship tries to reintroduce civil discourse that allows for caring conversation and careful listening on partisan issues, according to the event flier.
“When addressing public issues differences in positions are due to the weight we, as individuals, place in particular values over others, but they are all American values,” said Citizen Dialogue Chair Amy Bloom, who framed the dialogue.
The discussion, moderated by Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson, included position statements from former Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Andrew Moore, founder of the Immigration Law Clinic at Detroit Mercy Law and Professor of Law and University of Detroit Mercy.
Topics of discussion included refugee resettlement, national security and American identity, scope and limit of refugee resettlement and sanctuary cities.
“The level of immigrants, up to now, has been healthy for our country,” Moore said. “At the very least, currently having a positive birth rate is positive for our country. The immigrant stream we have now has been a positive thing.”
Richardville said one question people should ask when thinking about how many immigrants should be welcomed in the country is, "At what cost?"
“We have a country that has welcome and has been made up of immigrants for years,” he said. “I believe that we do have an obligation for people not under our house, but how much obligation depends on the individual.”
Moore said studies show there are an extremely small number of refugees that come to the U.S. trying to coordinate an attack.
“There is a lot of evidence that refugees do not cause a grave threat,” Moore said. “Certainly, they do not reflect what the Trump administration is proposing.”
Richardville said a lot of immigrants come to the United States, and he thinks President Donald Trump is trying to make sure the administration doesn’t bring in any “bad apples.”
“It might not be a difficult situation for the immigrants now, but in the long run, you have to take care of the people in the United States first,” he said.
Moore said through the vetting process in the United States, there is a very small chance of being accepting as a refugee, and the process altogether can take up to two years.
“Looking at the current administration, I just think they are making a big mistake,” Moore said. “There are ways of having healthy refugee resettlements to make us safer.”
Richardville said many conservatives are worried about refugees coming here to be on Medicare, Medicaid or other types of welfare.
“We would like to help people come into our countries, but we do want them to live by our standards,” he said. “My conservative friends say, ‘We like immigrants; we just don’t like illegal immigrants.”
Richardville said the country is in a real divide, not just liberal and conservative, but also urban and rural areas.
“It’s forums like this [that] set the framework to say I hate what you are saying, but I don’t hate you,” he said.
For more information about the Center for the Study of Citizenship and the Citizen Dialogues, visit www.clas.wayne.edu/citizenship.