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Why Are Americans So Divided on Refugee Policy?

Shilpa Madan, Aneeta Rattan, Shankha Basu, and Krishna Savani: An assimilationist ideology requires migrants to take on the new nation’s culture and let go of their home culture. A 2017 report released by the Trump administration echoed this ideology — an individual’s ability to assimilate into U.S. culture is now considered as part of their application for resettlement. This is the first time that the word assimilation has been used in the U.S. refugee policy. What drives this outlook? We conducted a series of psychological studies to better understand why people believe that refugees would not be able to assimilate. We found that a powerful yet previously overlooked factor is people’s general beliefs about individuals’ ability to change — i.e., whether people think it’s possible to change the kind of person you are.

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