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, godoyolivieri.com/trump-tweets-impending-ice-raids/.
Kerwin, Donald. “How America’s Refugee Policy Is Damaging to the World and to Itself.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 19 June 2018, www.economist.com/open-future/2018/06/19/how-americas-refugee-policy-is-damaging-to-the-world-and-to-itself.
Lazarus, Emma. “The New Colossus.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1883, www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/colossus.htm.
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, sites.duke.edu/refugeementalhealth/2018/03/27/refugee-camps-poor-living-conditions-and-their-effects-on-mental-health/.
“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, www.rescue.org/topic/refugees-america.