On a Lost Boy in Louisville

Daniel Solomon’s piece, A Lost Boy in Louisville: One Refugee’s Story, is an important read — both to begin to tease out the intersections of identity that individuals resettled exist in, but also to remember how much work still needs to happen after arrival. (also: kudos to Solomon for articulating things I saw working in Memphis that defied my vocabulary at the time.)

[Deng] Manyoun’s life in Louisville—and in Nashville before that—cannot alone be explained by the discrimination he confronted as a person of color. Rather, his story illustrates the ways in which local racial and social inequalities can exacerbate the already complex and often difficult process of refugee resettlement. In Manyoun’s case, his continuous encounters with adversity, his homelessness, his unemployment, and his alcoholism point to one of the shortcomings of refugee resettlement programs in the United States: the limited and short-term public support that these programs provide are inadequate for supporting refugees’ protracted transition from countries in conflict to the American cities in which they are resettled.

Resettlement programs claim to help refugees fulfill the most ambitious of American dreams: of “self-reliance and individual responsibility,” as the U.S. State Department has put it. With hard work and a bit of perseverance, the logic goes, a better life is possible for those fleeing some of the world’s gravest atrocities. But for too many, this rhetoric of self-reliance obscures the harsh consequences of limited public assistance and inadequate long-term social support offered by resettlement programs. They are simply not enough to achieve the self-sufficiency that resettlement programs advertize, nor, as in Manyoun’s case, even survive. In time, many tens of thousands of refugees who are resettled in the United States each year do “make it”: they become citizens, find gainful employment, and actively contribute to their local communities. We have much to learn from the stories of those who do not.

Manyoun’s move to the United States may have brought him sanctuary from a life of war and impoverishment in southern Sudan. But the scant and temporary measures on which he subsisted were not enough to help him survive. The consequences of poverty were further compounded by the racism that people of color regularly confront in Louisville. Refugees from Syria that the United States has pledged to admit in greater numbers will no doubt encounter similar racism and xenophobia unless we confront the stigma that currently colors debates about their resettlement.

There is much the U.S. government can do to assist refugees fleeing from the world’s worst violence—starting with admitting its fair share. Regardless of the quality of our resettlement programs, the expansion of refugee admissions is a matter of unequivocal moral obligation. But that same moral obligation also requires that we think seriously about what happens after resettlement. Sustainable and robust resettlement assistance is every bit as crucial to the fulfillment of our moral duty of offering a true sanctuary for those fleeing war. Without it, the refuge we offer is little more than an empty promise.


On new positions

Today’s new regjeringen brings a new position: innvandrings- og integreringsminister. Via NRK,

Ny statsrådspost

Sylvi Listhaug (37) går inn som innvandrings- og integreringsminister, en ny post som blir liggende under justisdepartementet.

– Det kan bli store synergieffekter av å se de to tingene sammen. En ekstra statsrådsstilling på det området er ganske nødvendig med den flyktningsituasjonen vi ser i dag, sier Solberg.

(emphasis in original text)

Also via NRK,

– Vi skal gjøre en rekke endringer som Stortinget står bak. Jeg gleder meg til å gjennomføre denne politikken, og jeg skal gjøre mitt ytterste for å holde tilstrømningen nede. Jeg skal også sørge for at de som ikke har rett til opphold, sendes ut så raskt som mulig, sa Listhaug.

– Må bidra

Hun mener Norge står overfor store utfordringer, og minnet om at tilstrømmingen av flyktninger til landet har vært rekordstor i 2015.

– Det er viktig at nye borgere bidrar og ikke bare blir passive mottakere av ytelser. Vårt samfunn er ikke bærekraftig dersom vi får et samfunn hvor mange personer lever på offentlig overføringer, sa Listhaug.

Hun lover å kjempe for at færre kommer til landet.

– Jeg er forberedt på at det kan komme flere flyktninger til våren, og derfor er det viktig å gjennomføre innstramminger, sa statsråden.

(emphasis in original text)

Here is the current organizational chart of the Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet:

  • Statsråd, Justis- og beredskapsminister: Anders Anundsen (FrP)
    • Statssekretær: Vidar Brein-Karlsen (FrP)
    • Statssekretær: Gjermund Hagesæter (FrP)
  • Statsråd, Innvandrings- og integreringsminister: Sylvi Listhaug (FrP)
    • Statssekretær: Jøran Kallmyr (FrP)
    • Statssekretær: Marit Berger Røsland (H)
    • Statssekretær: Hanne Caroline Simonsen Iversen (FrP)

An interesting aside: the day before the announcement, there was a collective freak out in the Norwegian news that Frp’s Per Sandberg was going to be given a similar job. My question: why the diversion? (are such leaks common in the Norwegian press?) To make Listhaug look less … by comparison?

Edit: Listhaug’s appointment brought more media attention than initially  expected (with her name even trending on Twitter [in Norway]) —

On humanization

Some great advice from the recent bell hooks interview that ran in NYT’s The Stone —

George Yancy: What should we do in our daily lives to combat, in that phrase of yours, the power and influence of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy? What can be done on the proverbial ground?

bell hooks: I live in a small, predominantly white town in the Bible Belt. Rather than saying, “What would Jesus do?” I always think, “What does Martin Luther King want me to do today?” Then I decide what Martin Luther King wants me to do today is to go out into the world and in every way that I can, small and large, build a beloved community. As a Buddhist Christian, I also think of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s saying, “Let’s throw this pebble into the water, it may not go far in the beginning, but it will ripple out.” So, every day, I’m challenging myself, “What are you doing, bell, for the creation of the beloved community?” Because that’s the underground, local, insistence that I be a fundamental part of the world that I’m in. I’ve been to the Farmer’s Market, I’ve been to the church bazaar this morning. I really push myself to relate to people, that is, people that I might not feel as comfortable relating to. There are many Kentucky hillbilly white persons who look at me with contempt. They cannot turn me around. I am doing the same thing as those civil rights activists, those black folk and those white folk who sat in at those diners and who marched.

It’s about humanization. And I can’t think of another way to imagine how we’re going to get out of the crisis of racial hatred if it’s not through the will to humanize.

On conferences: the discursive construction of ‘strangers’ @ Uni Birmingham

Ruth Wodak’s lecture on the discursive construction of ‘strangers’ during a conference held by the University of Birmingham on 5.11.15:

Inclusion and exclusion of migrants and refugees are renegotiated in the European Union on almost a daily scale: ever new policies defining and restricting immigration are proposed by European member states. A return to more local policies and ideologies can be observed, on many levels: traditions, rules, languages, visions, and imaginaries are affected. I claim that we are currently experiencing a re/nationalisation in spite of (or perhaps because of) multiple globalising tendencies (Wodak 2015) as well as a normalisation of exclusionary rhetoric. Moreover, recent heated political debates across Europe, about citizenship, language tests related to citizenship and immigration, and the construction of the immigrant as ‘the post-modern stranger’, coincide with the global financial crisis, the ‘refugee crisis’, and the crisis of the welfare state. We are dealing with global and glocal developments (Wodak 2010, 2011). Post-nationalism (Heller 2011) and cosmopolitanism (Bauman 1999) have become utopian concepts. In my lecture, I will analyse recent developments in respect to immigration and asylum policies across Europe from a discourse-historical perspective, especially in respect to the current ‘refugee crisis’: The data – analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively – consist of a range of genres (focus group discussions, party programmes, TV documentaries, and election campaign materials).

see also: 95,000 words, many of them ominous, from Donald Trump’s tongue 

On Memphis and REP

What is going on in the US right now is utterly frustrating to watch from abroad. Major love to Ruth, Cam, and the rest of the REP family in Memphis.

Via Kelli Cook at Local Memphis, TN lawmaker calls for round up of Syrian refugees —

Ruth Lomo fled the South Sudan and was brought to the United States from a Kenyan refugee camp.  She’s been in the United States since 2001.

“I was forced to flee my country because of war. I didn’t plan to leave. I was just fleeing for the safety of my children,” said Lomo.

Lomo was the inspiration for the Refugee Empowerment Program in Memphis. She fought to help people just like her from war-torn countries to get much needed resources as they transition into their new life in the Bluff City.

Mohamud Hilowle has been participating in R.E.P since he was in the 5th grade after his family gained refugee status from Somalia.

“Growing up, I used to come here like everyday after school. They make sure I did my work and made sure I was doing good,” said Hilowle.

While all refugees are accepted at this program, that may not be the case if  Republican Tennessee lawmaker Glen Casada gets his way.

“I am going to protect your family and mine by making statements that no terrorists get into the state,” said Casada of Williamson County.

Representative Casada said Wednesday during a press conference he not only wants the National Guard to round up recently settled Syrians in Tennessee and take them back to federal immigration officials, but he also wants the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to keep an eye on any refugee in the state.

(click through for video coverage + interviews @ REP)

On refugees resettling cities

[updated as I find further examples]



see also: Refugees in Europe? Here’s a different reason people are saying no to them — speaking to the need to consult the local communities refugees are to move into (specifically: Slovakia).