How to Talk About Refugees With Liberals


Recently, I wrote about on how to talk about refugees with conservatives. In the interests of fairness, today I’ll cover how to talk about refugees with liberals. The majority of the points remain the same: start slow, don’t attack liberalism, avoid ad hominem arguments, and, in this case, avoid framing refugee resettlement according to conservative values. So as not to be redundant, I will focus here on briefly explaining the values most liberals share and how welcoming refugees is compatible with them.


This liberal value focuses on leveling the playing field, so to speak, so that everyone can reach their full potential. This value is often applied to asylum seekers or refugees once they are resettled, since most first generation refugees live as part of America’s low income communities. Refugees resettled in the US, like all Americans, deserve the opportunity to build the best life possible for themselves and their families. In order to make this a reality, refugees must have access to English classes, job training, and other adjustment services.


Welcoming refugees into the US is the ultimate act of governmental compassion. Under international law, governments have no obligation to resettle refugees. (Governments do have an obligation to hear the asylum claims of those who travel to their country independently, but that’s a topic for another time.) We live in the wealthiest nation on earth, with the strongest military and one of the most stable democratic governments. The very least we can do is welcome a tiny fraction of refugees who cannot return home, giving them the opportunity to build a future for their children.


Reciprocity refers to an exchange of something for the mutual benefit of the parties involved. This can apply to refugee resettlement if we consider the great benefit that refugees, their children and their grandchildren provide for our country. Immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurs and small business owners than the American-born population. Welcoming refugees results in a diversity that we can learn from, and which ultimately makes our country better.

Social Justice

This is perhaps the liberal value that is most obviously compatible with refugee resettlement. Refugee resettlement is one form of justice for refugees who have been wrongly forced to flee their country of origin. While it cannot repay the wrong that has been done to them, it is an opportunity to move forward in their lives, instead of being trapped in a refugee camp for years or even decades.

These are just a few of the ways that we might talk about welcoming refugees as it relates to liberal values. In our current political climate, liberals are much more likely to support refugee resettlement than conservatives, so many of them probably don’t need to be convinced. However, I must reiterate that I do not believe refugee resettlement to be more compatible with one political position over another. Both liberals and conservatives can enthusiastically support refugee resettlement, albeit for different reasons.