Fact: The hardest way to come to the United States is through refugee status.
Fact: The US has the most difficult process of becoming a refugee in the world.
Fact: On average, it takes about 12 to 18 months to go through the entire process, and applicants can be rejected at any point.
Fact: Out of all refugees, 51% are women and are under the age of 18.
We have all heard about refugees in the news. Some people say they are all terrorists and that they ruin the host country’s culture. On the contrary, refugees commit less than 1% of all crimes committed and they can stimulate the economy. The perception we have of refugees is skewed by our fear of terrorism. America is afraid of people who do not fit the image of what they think makes an American. So what is an American supposed to look like? I thought America took pride in the fact that we are accepting of all people and the land of prosperity.
During my spring break, I participated in an Alternative Break (AB) called Refugee Resettlement in America. AB “empowers and challenges all involved to understand his or her relationship with the global community through direct service, education, and reflection, while encouraging personal growth, social awareness, and active citizenship”. My group of twelve Xavier students and one faculty member traveled to Abilene, Texas and worked directly with refugees. Most are originally from Congo DR, Bhutan, Myanmar, Cuba, and Iraq. We partnered with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a European based international relief association, and taught English as a second language classes and computer classes, practiced interviewing and business etiquette, and much more in this small Texan town. Throughout all first semester and up until spring break we met once a week to educate ourselves on the issue, to best equip ourselves to handle anything that could happen in the week we would spend in Texas. We learned people become refugees because, “they were persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.”
They do not feel safe in their own country, and life is not worth living in that country, so they have to flee to save their lives. They come from close to nothing, and if they are admitted into the United States they come with close to nothing. The majority of refugees are women and children that just want a place to live in peace and in a country the respects basic human rights. They want suitable living conditions, food, water, and showers — the basics of living. These are things that they do not have in their home country. They don’t want to leave their home, but they are forced to if they want a live in safety.
A trend my group and I noticed when working with the refugees was how grateful they all were to be in the United States. Even though they did’t speak English well, they tried extremely hard and wanted to learn. They took about any entry-level job they could get and worked tirelessly to make a life in the United States. I found this to be very inspiring. A person does not choose their parents, where they grow up, or the events that happen in his or her life. I am so grateful that I was born into the family and the country that I was. The issues that I have gone through in my life are so much easier to deal with than what a majority of people have to face. I am so fortunate. This trip made the issue of refugees real for me. You hear about different issues on the news, but if it does not affect you personally, it’s not as real. I now take the issues that are reported much more personally. Even though it’s not affecting me, it’s still affecting people in the world and changing their lives.
Before you make up your mind on hot-button issues like the refugee crisis, make sure you know all the facts (especially since we are in an election year). Even though it may not affect you right now, it could affect others or even you later in life.