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Immigrants, refugees say rhetoric is increasingly angry

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The longer the presidential race drags on, the more Utahns say they are seeing conversations about immigration and refugees become less like a debate and more like hate speech.

Brazilian native Renata Ryan says it's one thing to hear Donald Trump say things like "we're going to build a wall." But what she's been hearing lately is more personal.

"People [are] telling me, 'I am against illegal immigrants,'" Ryan says. "'I am sick of paying for the illegal immigrants.'"

Ryan says the campaign has been incredibly painful for people of color. She describes her own experiences being called a "dirty Mexican," and says she has friends whose immigration status has been called into question because of their appearance.

"I'm having a hard time with the way it's dehumanizing people. That for me is a great big concern," Ryan says.

Shawna Farnsworth, a Utah woman who is fostering six African refugee children, says one of her foster daughters is fielding that same kind of rhetoric at high school.

"She told me that all the kids have come to her and asked her if she would be offended if they called her the 'n-word,'" Farnsworth says. "I was so outraged."

She calls the attention demeaning.

"She told me, 'I just wish people could see me beyond my skin color, for once,'" Farnsworth says.

But the focus and attention has had positive affects as well. Catholic Community Services' Danielle Stamos says some groups have been calling for compassion and extra help for refugee programs.

"There was such an influx of support that we were almost overwhelmed at some point," Stamos says.

Farnsworth says she'd like to see that compassion make it into more national conversations, resulting in less reason to be afraid.

"That's a fear these children have," she says, "that they're going to be sent home."

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Brianna Bodily


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