Immigration and refuge have always been part of America’s history. There is not a person in the US that does not have an immigration story somewhere within their family history. For some, it may be a grandparent who has immigrated from another country and had gone through Angel or Ellis Island. For others, it may be terrifying stories about how they ran away from a poverty-ridden country with no money and only the clothes on their back. The one thing all of these people have in common is the hope of living The American Dream.

In this day and age, it is very difficult to find any sort of news that doesn’t revolve around America’s immigration status. Unfortunately, America’s status is not for the better. Thousands of people are being shunned away from our country because they are “illegal aliens”. On June 17, 2019, President Donald Trump tweeted on his Twitter account that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be removing the millions of people who were illegally living in the United States (Trump). This is only one of many examples of the prominence of illegal immigration within our country.

Times in which the United States has had increased refugee numbers include WW2, Vietnam War, and the Cuban revolution. However, within the past few years, the number of legal refugees has dramatically decreased and the number of illegal refugees has dramatically increased. This is mostly in part of President Trump’s travel bans and refusal of immigrants. By limiting the ways that people can seek refuge in the US we are increasing the potential for more illegal immigrants. 

These are not the values that our country was built on. Our country was brought up on the promise that even if you are not an American born citizen, you can still acquire American citizenship. Other countries think of America as the embodiment of freedom. In the news, they see all of the great things that we have done for the people of our country. But then, they see all of the horrible things we are doing to those of other countries in the world. 

Many have compared America’s refugee camps to internment camps and concentration camps. These camps are the places that our government is putting those we are denying access to. Those living in these camps only have the hope that they can be transferred to another country that will accept them. Like internment and concentration camps, American refugee camps consist of buildings made of brick and concrete, close quarters, and very little amounts of clean water. These camps are disease-ridden, very cramped, and consist of very few smiling faces.

“How? How can this be happening? Have we learned nothing?” Grandmère mutters under her breath as she reads a copy of International News. You see, Grandmère is a holocaust survivor who can’t believe that innocent people are being put into the same conditions that her friends and family were put into (“Present Day”). The more horrors that come to light showing what refugees are going through in the United States camps show that a history we promised to ourselves, as well as our ancestors, would never happen again is happening as we turn our backs to it, out of sight out of mind.

The American Dream used to be as inscribed on the statue of liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”

Emma Lazarus

The American Dream now is ‘keep your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.’

This is how those who are trying to seek refugee are thinking. They are going from one extreme to another extreme. In both cases, neither is the preferred.

Every American has an immigration or refugee story in their families. The only question is, when are the stories going to be about prosperity like they once were, instead of stories of camps, starvation, poverty, and death.

Godoy, Mario A. “Trump Tweets Impending ICE Raids: Families Hurt.” Godoy Law Office, 16 Oct. 2019,

Kerwin, Donald. “How America’s Refugee Policy Is Damaging to the World and to Itself.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 19 June 2018,

Lazarus, Emma. “The New Colossus.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1883,

Trump, Donald (realDonaldTrump). “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people.”  17 June 2019, 9:20 PM. Tweet.

University, Duke. “Refugee Camps: Poor Living Conditions and Their Effects on Mental Health.” Refugee Mental Health, 28 Mar. 2018,

“Present Day.” White Bird: A Wonder Story, by R. J. Palacio, Random House Children’s Books, 2019, pp. 198–204.“Refugees in America.” International Rescue Committee (IRC), 2019,

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December 9, 2019 1:38 am

Dear Ashleigh,
My name is Amaia Horyna and I am a senior at Judge Memorial High School in Utah. I absolutely love this piece. I can tell this is a topic that you are extremely passionate about and that you are very knowledgable about this topic. I too am disgusted with how the United States has handled immigration in recent years and years past. Adding the quote that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty was so powerful and really made me aware of how far our nation has strayed from its founding values. The detainment centers at the border make me sick and I so desperately want change in the future. The treatment of immigrants in these border camps is extremely concerning. Concentration camp is defined as, “a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution.” ( According to this definition, these border camps are a type of concentration camp although we have not yet turned to forced labor or mass extinction. Have you been keeping up on the death of Carlos Hernandez Vasquez? If not, I have attached a link explaining the situation. He is the the seventh child to die within the past year in the border camps. I would love to hear more from you about this topic and potential solutions to the situation!
Amaia Horyna

December 6, 2019 2:33 pm

Dear Ashleigh,
I found your paper very interesting. It is crazy to think that even now things like back in the holocaust are happening now without anyone noticing. I can’t believe things have gotten this bad and we are letting it go! I agree with you that things are being handled very, very poorly. These people are trying to escape bad conditions by coming to the US but then are put into just as bad, if not worse, conditions and are being separated from their families. I believe they should be treated like anyone else. They are people too and deserve to be treated and tried fairly. I do believe they should have a background check before coming in but it needs to be handled better! They need to stay in a nice place with their families and be fed and taken care of while the legals are being taken care of. They should not be kept in these terrifying prison like cells. We need to treat them better, treat them like humans, not animals. Thank you for sharing your work and ideas!


Jihan Park
December 6, 2019 2:26 pm

Dear Ashleigh,
I am Jihan responding to your ‘To leave or not to leave’ because I really enjoyed the read and have some of my own opinions as well. One thing that really stuck out to me was when you took what was inscribed on state of liberty and reworded it into something that relates to our current situation: “The American Dream now is ‘keep your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” I very much agree on your thought of our immigration problem. You used popular thinking–illegal immigrants are bad–and then used that to state what was going wrong. I myself don’t agree with illegal immigrants, however, when one places more limitations of legal immigration, it would most likely be a given that illegal immigration would increase. Some questions I have for you would be What do you think we should do about the immigration problem? What are your thoughts on the illegal immigrants already living in the US, and how should we handle them? I really enjoyed reading this and I commend your work.


December 6, 2019 1:21 pm

Dear Ashleigh,
I really enjoyed reading your paper. I especially found it very appalling and interesting to read. It really liked how it gave me a new perspective on how we are handling immigration. I think it’s awful how people are treating immigrants who are just trying to get to safety in the USA and instead are being treated probably just as bad as they are forced out or wait to come in to the United States. One thing you did that really stood out to me was the way you said the line on the Statue Liberty has changed in the course of recent actions. I found it very profound when you said stated, “keep your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” (To Leave or Not to Leave). I agree with you that we are handling this immigration thing very poorly. Just because these people come from a different place to America, doesn’t mean they need to be treated like they are less than nothing. What do you think we need to do our immigration system in order to make it better for immigrants waiting to be let in and people already living here in the USA? Thank you for sharing your work and well done.


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