Commentary / Community / Social Issues

In Considering Refugees: Hold True to Our Values, Educate & Take Action

Sinski_154x154David Sinski, M.A., serves as Chair of Adler University’s Board of Trustees. He is Executive Director of Heartland Human Care Services and Vice President of Heartland Alliance. In this role, he oversees operations providing a wide range of services related to economic opportunity, health, and housing each year for more than 20,000 individuals annually, including immigrants and refugees.

In our national discussions of the Syrian refugees , fear is too often the primary driver in the policies and rhetoric of our political leaders and ambitious candidates for office. The fear that some tiny number might be terrorists has become an argument for shutting out all of them.

To make such an argument, one has to reduce a group of people to a singular idea; in this case, a risk. But let’s be clear: These are fellow human beings escaping war and gang violence, who have witnessed the murder of friends and family members, whose home states can offer no protection, let alone education or work opportunities.

That also means they are survivors of unimaginable struggles, seeking peace and prosperity for themselves and their families. To call them a liability is to deny all the potential and resiliency they bring, which is to essentially deny the greatest aspects of our nation’s heritage and culture.

The politicians who want to limit our response and close our borders to some imagined and unfounded risk are not protecting us. Their response makes us smaller and weaker, not bigger, not bolder.

As Executive Director of Heartland Human Care Services, where we work with immigrants and refugees every day, I can attest that these candidates and politicians—and their proposed policies—could not be more wrong. I am moved to speak out, to call on all of us as social justice practitioners to ensure that we hold true to our values.

As Chair of the Board of Trustees of Adler University, I am optimistic about so many students preparing to tackle these issues directly through careers dedicated to social justice—to righting wrongs and to helping individuals and communities move from trauma, prejudice and inequity, to safety, hope and stability.

If you agree, please help others see and embrace these refugees as fellow humans, by sharing their stories. If you feel compelled to act, learn more about leading change through Adler University—through programs such as its Public Policy program in Chicago focused on Human Rights Advocacy, or its Public Policy and Administration program in Vancouver, with concentrations in Immigration Policy and Practice and in Social Change Leadership. Adler’s Global Campus has also established a new online M.A. in Media and Communications for Social Change—teaching people how to develop the types of communication campaigns we need to confront the misinformation shared about refugees in this country.