Bonet Analyzes Refugee Resettlement and the Efficacy of America’s Policies

On Thursday, October 20, Visiting Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Sally Bonet gave a presentation titled “The Refugee Crises Within Our Own Borders: Iraqi Refugees and the Broken American Resettlement Program.”

Bonet’s presentation focused on post-settlement issues facing refugees in America, rather than discussing issues refugees face when they first try to resettle in America. In particular, Bonet focused on how state institutions, which are tasked with the care of refugees who live in poverty, affect refugees’ ability to access various rights in the United States.

Bonet’s presentation was split into five sections: the conceptual framework of her study, a case study involving refugees in Philadelphia, her method of study, her findings and the implications of her findings. In her case study, Bonet studied four Iraqi refugee families in Philadelphia, in a local resettlement agency and in a school district, to ensure that she observed the issue from a variety of viewpoints.

Bonet highlighted some of the most important issues confronting refugees after they settle in America. These issues include, but are not limited to, being forced to leave high school at the age of 21 due to state age limits, having to balance survival and education and being faced with Islamophobia. Bonet explained that the United States’ current refugee aid policy is based on the idea of self-sufficiency, which is ultimately

insufficient when it comes to helping refugees. To provide evidence for this statement, Bonet presented interviews from members of the Iraqi families she observed during her case study.

“We expected rights, but had no rights,” Um Zelina, one of the refugees, said in an interview with Bonet. “We faced the same hardship and suffering that we faced before we escaped.”

Next, Bonet presented several solutions to the current, flawed system, such as how Americans must move beyond trauma discourse, which focuses attention solely on the trauma resettled refugees suffered in the home nations. Bonet said that United States policies should focus instead on what should be done after refugee resettlement. 

Bonet also argued that certain policies and practices must be revised, especially in terms of policies regarding refugee education, housing and food. She asserted that there remains a large gap between refugee resettlement and refugee integration.

Immediately after the presentation, members of the audience had the opportunity to pose questions to Bonet. During this question and answer portion of Bonet’s presentation, audience members asked questions pertaining to the process that determines where refugees settle in the United States, as well as the criteria used to decide this. 

Bonet’s presentation was well-received by attendees, and members of the Colgate community found Bonet to be articulate when discussing this complicated issue and her proposed solutions. 

Junior Miranda Scott was pleased with Bonet’s approach to the subject.

“The topic was interesting,” Scott said. “She did a good job of presenting her research in a way that produced a lot of empathy.”

Sophomore Tianyi He believed that Bonet’s focus on refugee post-settlement issues during the presentation was unique, and  felt that it facilitated an important discussion.

“It’s fascinating how people pay so much attention to refugees being resettled but fail to take into account just how much trouble refugees face post-settlement,” He said. “It’s nice to see someone analyze the problem of post-resettlement in such an articulate manner.”