Here is some information to help refugees and immigrants stay safe. In the United States, many refugee and immigrant communities are feeling scared and threatened. Find out what to do if you think you are in danger, when to call the authorities, ask for help from people near you, how to report an incident, and what to do if you receive online threats and bullying.
Hatred toward others has no place in our society. However, it is a reality that we live in.
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When you feel you are being threatened, here are 10 things you can do.
1) Call the police: 911. Stay on the phone.
We know many immigrants and refugee communities are afraid of the police. However, if you are being threatened, the most important thing you can do is call the police. If you are too afraid to call, you can ask a stranger to call the police for you.
2) While you are still on the phone with the police, text a friend or relative.
Tell them your location and what is happening.
3) Try to stay calm. Slowly move away from the person or people who are threatening you.
Do not tell the person to calm down. This makes things worse.
4) Remember, people who are being racist or violent are not rational. Do not talk to them or explain anything to them.
There may be times you can have a conversation with a stranger and help educate them about their misconceptions. But when you are feeling scared or threatened, you should focus on your safety.
5) If you speak English, speak in English to those around you.
People who are being irrational and violent may think you are talking about them if you speak another language.
6) Ask another person near you for help.
As a newcomer, you may feel afraid to ask for help. Research shows people do not respond in groups, but if you ask a single person for help, they will help you. Tell them you feel afraid and move closer to them. Look for someone who is watching or smiling at you. If the first person you ask does not respond, ask another person.
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7) If you are alone, try to go as quickly as possible to a public place.
Try to stay in an area with other people until you feel safe.
8) If the person is coming closer to you and you feel afraid, yell loudly.
Tell them to stay away from you.
9) After you are safe, report the incident.
There are several ways you can report what happened:
- You can report it to the police non-emergency line in your state. In most states, this number is 311.
- You can report it to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
- If you were in a place of business when it happened (a store, for example), report it to the business.
- If you were on a bus or subway, or train, report it to the transit company.
- You should also report the information to your local government or city mayor’s office.
- You can also report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) I by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or sending an anonymous tip to tips.fbi.gov
10) Tell leaders in your community about what happened.
They can request meetings with the local police and local elected officials to make them and the public aware of incidents targeting your community.
It is also important to tell the media, schools, and organizations in the community about these events so they can report what is happening and build awareness.
Online Threats, Bullying and Discrimination
If you receive online threats, bullying messages, and discriminatory comments via social media or online, it is recommended that you identify and report these types of incidents with the social media platform you are using and with the local authorities too.
Online discrimination can come in the form of racial insults, racist/stereotyping statements, harassment, racist jokes, symbols of hate, threats of physical harm or death, graphic or violent images. Learn more here.
This information is meant to educate newcomers and help them feel prepared when they feel threatened in the United States. It should not be in any way considered legal advice. If you do need legal advice, we can help you find a free or low-cost lawyer.