“You have a dream..You gotta protect it”, these words were (in my opinion), some of the most influential words spoken in the film: Pursuit of Happyness. This film was notable to me for it’s inspirational message and dialogue. These powerful words encourage people to follow their dreams, no matter the cost. These words are akin to the words “I refuse to sink” which were tattooed onto Syrian immigrant Hussein. These words, full of determination and purpose, tie in with what I believe to be the most controversial and pivotal crisis in our world today: Immigration and Refugees.
The refugee crises in countries such as Syria have resulted in mistrust of refugees in some first world countries, where their citizens and governments wonder if they should accept refugees at all. Sadly, the perils refugees face to protect their dream is rarely shown in the media. Instead, the media display’s Trump's newest words that demote and humiliate refugees, constantly. Ultimately, refugees are people who have endured innumerable obstacles to reach their destination. Understanding that refugees are not one of Trump's fictitious accusations but are people who have struggled to protect their dreams is pivotal in order to solve this dilemma.
In recent times, a majority of refugees and immigrants are emigrating from Syria; a country bordering Turkey. The impetus for this catastrophe is the civil war between Syrian leader Bashar al Assad and Syrian rebels. This conflict has peaked in recent years leaving over 300,000 dead and millions displaced. Syrian immigrant Faez al Sharaa recalls the trial of living in the war torn country to Time Magazine. “Dozens were dying each day …. Dissidents had disappeared. Children ... plucked off the streets ….. only to be tortured by authorities”.
The fear of being labeled a rebel; the anxiety of being killed by a rebel; the suffocating feeling of dread when you think of your loved ones; these feelings congregate and amplify to the degree where only one option remains: leaving.
“ I had to leave ... I cannot understand, not even today, how I got myself into this situation” remarks Hussein (the Syrian immigrant mentioned above,) who currently resides in Greece.
After making the decision to leave one’s country, refugees (such as Faez) are quickly smuggled past the border of Syria and into Jordan where they wait in refugee camps.
However this is not always the case. The majority of smuggled refugees are forced to pay ridiculous sums of money to their smugglers.“They were kept locked up in a stable on a farm until the departure,..until the smugglers managed to collect the number of refugees they wanted..the price of the journey ..rose all the time. Those women who were unable to cover the ever increasing amount got raped by their keepers,... the men got .. tortured” writes Hungarian journalist Boglarka Balogh over the trials of Ahmed; another Syrian refugee who was forced to pay a continuous sum to guarantee his (now late) family’s safety.
This is accompanied with the thousands of east African refugees that die in ships sinking each day to reach European countries. According to Tigrai Online (an Ethiopian news website) “300 Eritreans and Somalis on board hoping to reach Italy...at least twenty drowned .. more than 150 missing”. Those fortunate enough to survive then go to refugee camps for aid and safety.
However refugee camps have become a major concern. The majority of refugee camps teem with crime, plague and molestation. All while refugees wait to be screened by the U.N.
Unfortunately the interviewing and screening of refugees is a very tedious and scrutinized task that can take several months. “The refugee resettlement program is the most difficult way to come to the U.S.” remarks I.R.C. vice president Jennifer Sime. It was only after this was completed were refugees like Hussein and Faez able to go to foreign countries for a better life. Refugees then begin the laborious process of settling in a new nation.
This assimilation into a disparate culture is no small feat. Refugees have to adapt to new social customs and often times new languages. The initial transition is tough with refugees working night shifts to provide for their adjusting families. These night shifts are often a result of low paying jobs that exploit refugee’s desperation to provide for their families. While these new jobs may be secure, they are insignificant in contrast to the jobs of natural citizens. This bias further extends to the children of these refugees who are racially bound to lower expectations and less help at school. This results in low education, which leads to low paying jobs resulting in the creation of a never-ending, systematic cycle.
Interestingly enough, while refugees such as Faez and Huessien make their dreams reality, some politicians are preaching for forced deportation of refugees. One of the biggest advocates today is republican Donald Trump; who has been notorious for his racial and stereotypical comments about refugees and immigrants. Furthermore Donald Trump has vowed that after achieving presidency, he will deport all Syrian refugees regardless of the laws and amendments legally allowing them there. In other words the dreams of refugees like Faez will be destroyed. American citizens will be forcibly evicted and thrown back into the country they escaped because of fear that every refugee is a terrorist.
“That’s not American. That’s not who we are.” remarks President Obama in response to the rejection of Syrian refugees by states such as Texas.
As Americans we always seek to leave our mark on the world. Well, people are dying. We need to change. While terrorism is abhorrent and should be brought to an end, we should not deport settled refugees. The dream most refugees go to absurd lengths for is not terrorism but to provide for their families. They don’t want their kids to merely survive but to live and thrive. As Americans we need to protect this dream. Sometimes the best change is not besting your own strife but protecting another’s dream and life.
"TIGRAI Online." Boat with 300 Eritrean and Somalian Immigrants Sinks near Italy. N.p., 7 Apr. 2011. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.tigraionline.com/articles/article110420.html>.
"Hussein's Story, Greece - Refugee Stories." Web log post. Refugee Stories Husseins Story Greece Comments. N.p., 13 June 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://stories.unhcr.org/husseins-story-greece-p4885.html>.
Altman, Alex. "What It's Like To Be A Syrian Refugee In America." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://time.com/a-syrian-refugee-story/>.
Balogh, Boglarka. "Ahmed's Story, Syria - Refugee Stories." Refugee Stories Ahmeds Story Syria Comments. N.p., 06 June 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://stories.unhcr.org/boglarka-balogh-journalist-p3845.html>.
Staff, World Vision. "What You Need to Know: Crisis in Syria, Refugees, and the Impact on Children." World Vision. N.p., 9 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.worldvision.org/news-stories-videos/syria-war-refugee-crisis>.
Haddon, Heather. "Donald Trump: If Elected I’ll Deport Syrian Refugees."WSJ. N.p., 1 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/10/01/trump-if-elected-ill-deport-syrian-refugees/>.
Price, Bob. "Texas Governor Refuses Syrian Refugees." Breitbart News. N.p., 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/16/texas-governor-refuse-syrian-refugees/>.
Key, Pam. "Obama: Shameful, Un-American to Close Our Hearts to Syrian Refugees - Breitbart." Breitbart News. N.p., 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.breitbart.com/video/2015/11/16/obama-shameful-un-american-to-close-our-hearts-to-syrian-refugees/>.
Carnock, Janie T. "How Young Children of Immigrants Face Discrimination At School - EdCentral." EdCentral. N.p., 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.edcentral.org/early-discrimination/>.