Dissertation: How Bosnians SUcceeded in Assimilating into St Louis Society

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[. . .] Notwithstanding the fallout from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the ongoing political controversy concerning the potential threat of additional attacks on this scale, the United States accepted almost 39,000 Muslim refugees in fiscal year 2016, representing the largest number to date Indeed, despite popular beliefs to the contrary, Muslim refugees accounting for almost half (46%) of all refugees accepted into the United States in fiscal year 2016 compared to 44% for refugees of a Christian faith; this was the first time since 2006 when a large influx of Somali refugees were accepted into the country that Muslim refugee admissions to the United States exceeded those of Christian faiths.

Nevertheless, the cumulative totals of Muslim versus Christian refugees accepted into the United States during the period from 2002 to 2016 shows that more Christian refugees (399,677) were admitted compared to Muslim refugees (279,339), or 46% and 32%, respectively as depicted in Figure 2 below.[footnoteRef:12] [12: Krogstad & Radford (2017), p. 3.]

Figure 2. Number of refugees entering the United States by religious affiliations – fiscal years 2002 – 2016

Source: Pew Research Center, 2017

In sharp contrast to the “melting pot” metaphor that characterized the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries,[footnoteRef:13] the American public has become increasingly wary of accepting millions more refugees into the country today. While the United States has historically accepted floods of refugees in response to humanitarian crises, there has been a growing perception that mirrors President Trump’s calls to “make America great for Americans again!” In this regard, the findings from the Pew Research Center survey also showed that this public perception has become especially pronounced since the president’s election. For instance, the Pew Research Center reports that, “The U.S. public has seldom approved of accepting large numbers of refugees. In October 2016, 54% of registered voters said the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees from Syria, while 41% said it does.”[footnoteRef:14] [13: Anne Fredrickson (2006, September/October). “Learning Somali in Minnesota.” Humanities, Vol. 27, No. 5, p. 48.] [14: Krogstad & Radford (2017), p. 3.]

Moreover, it is little wonder that there was a sharp political division on this issue among the American public, with an overwhelming majority of Republican Trump supporters (87%) reporting that the United States does not have a fundamental obligation to accept yet more refugees from war-torn countries versus just over one-quarter (27%) of Democrats.[footnoteRef:15] Although partisanship differences also existed concerning past efforts to accept large numbers of refugees fleeing the countries for safe havens elsewhere, the respective percentages of Americans supporting these efforts as shown in Figure 3 below has typically been low, with the admission of ethnic Albanians (approximately half of whom were Muslim) in 1999 being an especially noteworthy exception. [15: Krogstad & Radford (2017), p. 3.]

Figure 3. Percentages of Americans supporting refugee acceptance: 1958-1999

Source: Pew Research Center, 2017

It is reasonable to posit that the American general public’s acceptance levels for refugees, even from Islamic countries, would be far higher if more people knew about the significant successes that have been experienced by the Bosnian refugee community in St. Louis. For instance, Bhaba and Mirga emphasize that:

Although the U.S. reaction to developments in the Czech Republic provides an interesting case study regarding the evolution of U.S. policy and the relationship between U.S. and European approaches, the Balkans would provide multiple additional and equally illuminating chapters. The U.S. role in Dayton or Kosovo may be well known; less well known is the resettlement of Bosnian refugees in Missouri.[footnoteRef:16] [16: Jacqueline Bhabha & Andrzej Mirga. (2017). Realizing Roma Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 74.]

Higher acceptance levels by the American public might also translate into greater numbers of refugees being admitted to the country, including those without the critical skills and talents that are currently being targeted by federal immigration policies, making them in special need of assistance and underscoring the importance of these types of studies.

Context of the Study

It is against the foregoing backdrop that the Bosnian refugees of interest to this study are placed. Today, more than 70,000 Bosnian refugees, many of them Muslim, live in St. Louis, Missouri, a city of 315,000 people, making them the largest population minority population in St. Louis, the largest group of Bosnians in the United States and the largest group living outside of Europe. Although some of these refugees have expressed a desire to return to their homeland, the overwhelming majority wants to remain in the United States where they are carving out a meaningful life for themselves and their families.

The unlikely odyssey of these Bosnian refugees to St. Louis began on May 2, 1997 when civil wars erupted in the Croat-controlled region of Drvar which was located in the then-Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (see map in Figure 4 below) and approximately 25 Serb homes were set ablaze.[footnoteRef:17] [17: Eric Rosand (1998), “The Right to Return Under International Law Following Mass Dislocation: The Bosnia Precedent.” 19 Michigan Journal of International Law 4, 1092.]

Figure 4. Political map of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Source: https://www.cia.gov/library/Publications/the-world-factbook/graphics/maps/bk-map.gif

One of the especially troubling aspects of these Balkanized civil wars was their primary objective of “cleansing” the region ethnically, either through genocidal actions or forced resettlements. In this regard, Bobic emphasizes that, “The civil wars that broke out in Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina were inspired by a romantic ideology of \"pure nation\" (the so-called eastern model of nation building), and, therefore, ethnic cleansing was one of the means to meet that end. These circumstances explain why the flood of refugees was one of the direct political and war objectives in the 1990s in the Balkans.”[footnoteRef:18] [18: Mirian Bobic (2009, Spring). “Forced Migrants in Serbia: Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons-Facts and Figures, Coping Strategies, Future.” Refuge, Vol. 26, No. 1, p. 101.]

The findings that emerged from an investigation of this ethnic-cleansing incident showed that the attack was the responsibility of Croats who were attempting to prevent the original Serb inhabitants of these homes from returning. The violent events that followed this incident resulted in the displacement of approximately 2.3 people, including large numbers of Bosnian Muslims, many of whom were settled in St. Louis, Missouri.[footnoteRef:19] In this context, “large numbers” are relatively small when compared to the global scope of the refugee crisis, but the Bosnian example in St. Louis provides some useful lessons learned for other communities that may be currently reluctant to welcome foreigners to their municipalities. [19: Rosand (1998), p. 1092.]

The successful assimilation of these tens of thousands of Bosnian refugees can serve as a model for the international community, including most especially the developing nations that are currently hosting the majority of the world’s refugees as well as the European Union that is confronted with an enormous influx of refugees today. Indeed, the Bosnian refugees that have been resettled in St. Louis stand out as an exemplar, even in the United States where many refugees have found themselves the victims of “U.S. domestic policies that enslave those in the inner cities” and confine them “in the violent captivity of the urban center.”[footnoteRef:20] The relevant international laws concerning refugees’ right to stay in a country where they have been resettle and the respective pros and cons of relocating refugees to rural camps in developing nations or helping them relocate to urban communities in affluent countries are discussed further in chapter two below. [20: Judy Ledgerwood (2016, Winter). “Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the New York City Hyperghetto.” Refuge, Vol. 32, No. 2, p. 93.]

Research Questions

The study’s guiding research questions were as follows:

1. What are the respective pros and cons of the settlement of Muslim Bosnian refugees in an urban community in the United States?

2. What are the controlling international laws that govern refugees?

3. How can the success of the Bosnian matriculation to St Louis be used as a blueprint for the refugee problem that is currently plaguing Europe?

Organization of the Study

In order to develop timely and informed answers to the above-stated research questions, this study used a five-chapter format. This first chapter provided an introduction to the issues of interest and the importance and context of the study, as well as its guiding research questions. Chapter two that follows below provides a systematic review of the relevant literature concerning these issues of interest followed by a description of the study’s methodology, including a description of the study approach and the data-gathering method and database of study consulted. The penultimate chapter provides an analysis of the data collected and a discussion of the findings followed by a summary of the research, key findings and recommendations in the concluding chapter.

Chapter Two: Review of the Literature

While the majority of the world’s refugees are currently living in resettlement camps of varying quality in rural regions of developing nations,[footnoteRef:21] a very small percentage still manage… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"How Bosnians SUcceeded in Assimilating into St Louis Society."  Essaytown.com.  May 14, 2018.  Accessed May 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/bosnians-succeeded-assimilating-st/8535775.