In this paper we explore the extent to which ‘discursive deracialization’, the removal of ‘race’ from potentially racially motivated arguments, is taking place in talk about asylum seeking. A discourse analysis is conducted on the part of a corpus of data collected from focus groups with undergraduate students talking about asylum seeking, in which they were asked if they considered it to be racist to oppose asylum. We show that speakers use three arguments for opposing asylum that are explicitly framed as non-racist: opposition is based on (1) economic reasons (2) religious grounds and the associated threat of terrorism and (3) the lack of asylum seekers’ ability to integrate into British society. These findings are discussed with regard to the implications they have for our understanding of discursive deracialization in which it is shown that there is a common knowledge understanding, albeit one that needs qualifying, that opposition to asylum is not racist. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.