This is the time of the year when we gather with our beloved family members around the dining room table or in the living room, cozy by the fireplace. Parents may see their kids come home for the holidays, relatives may gather and conversations about all topics may arise.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

I hope many Mainers will be equipped with the right information when immigration-related issues arise at the table. Generally, most Americans know very little about the U.S. immigration system and current U.S. policies and practices. There is a lack of clarity and understanding of newly arrived refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants; many fuse them together as the same thing.

I have been a U.S. citizen for over a year now, but sometimes people I chat with still think I am a refugee, or an asylum-seeker, or an immigrant. I often ask myself if there will ever be a time when I can be seen as an American, not a refugee.

I have not had refugee status for nearly eight years. But the term haunts those of us who want to move on. I have been a taxpayer from the first week of my arrival, a fully employed, naturalized U.S. citizen, educated in this country. What more do I need to not be called a refugee?

Seeking refuge is an experience I hold dear, but it’s an identity I don’t want to carry with me into the future. Some people seem to be surprised when they learn, with my accent, that I am actually a U.S. citizen and a registered voter with a U.S. passport. Over the years I have learned to engage in conversations to try to soften up the conflated views toward all three terms.

Why not start by actually framing the language itself? Instead of saying “refugee,” how about “a person who is seeking refuge”? This helps soften the anxiety many face towards refugees. Being a refugee is not a permanent state of being; it is a process for the most vulnerable to find a permanent home and safe place. When people who are seeking refuge come to the United States, they get legal documents and in a few years become full participants in our democracy, pay their taxes and enrich their communities. Whereas people seeking asylum face difficult challenges in proving their cases in the United States. They may wait for years for their cases to be approved.

The anti-immigration sentiment here in the U.S. and across the world can be attributed to misinformation and misunderstandings. Many Americans connect refugees with the southern border issues. This can lead to more hate towards people, including myself, who have legally resettled into the U.S. and had never even been at the southern border. One of the misconceptions I often come across is that people assume I can answer questions on behalf of those crossing the border.

I hope as you sit with your family members this holiday season, you keep in mind the positive aspects of people who flee their homes and seek asylum. I hope you paint the right picture of these people. Highlight the many ways people who seek asylum are connected to us, rather than are different than us. Let’s focus on the positive terms. Terms such as innovators and educators rather than illegal and poorly educated. Let’s not say they are afraid, living in fear, let’s say they are determined and brave. Let’s not say they are opposed to assimilating and don’t want to learn English or become a real American. Let’s say they earn their citizenship and rights in this country.

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