Refugees are not here on vacation; they are fighting for their lives

Illustration by Anna Yang

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Take a glance at our lovely nation: the United States. Formerly occupied by American Indians, the nation shifted greatly in regards to demographics once white colonizers made their way to the land.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and killed off this land’s natives. Columbus himself was an immigrant. Our founding fathers were immigrants. Our first president was an immigrant. 

The United States is a nation of immigrants that is riddled with xenophobia.

Can you see how twisted and backwards that is? I mean, if a country is composed of immigrants, it can’t possibly hate other immigrants.

Xenophobia is defined as a fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or anything related to such. The term is infamously paired with discrimination against immigrants.  

You see, this nation does not belong to the white man. But I can understand how that concept is harder to grasp, seeing how white men have consistently killed off other immigrants throughout this nation’s history.

On Aug. 15, the Taliban — an ultraconservative and violent group of Islamic extremists — took control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. The seizure comes mere days after President Joe Biden began the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban, who were previously ousted from control of Afghanistan by the United States, have regained power and begun their inhumane terrorism again.

Since the fall of Kabul, the United States has evacuated over 82,000 people. Holding a combination of American civilians, troops and Afghan nationals who have helped the United States, this airlift was the largest evacuation in American history, according to the Associated Press.

As Americans return home to their loved ones, Afghan natives will now find themselves in unchartered territory. The United States is granting entrance to Afghans who have obtained some form of special visa, or have at least applied for it and have yet to hear back. Upon their arrival, they will be housed in military bases in states across the nation such as: Virginia, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Texas.

As they face the turmoil of a new nation, a new language and a new life, they will also have to deal with the brutal realities of being an immigrant in the United States. 

Living in a post-9/11 world, Muslim immigrants have faced an unbelievable amount of xenophobia and Islamophobia. I was born in the United States. I speak the language, I know the culture, I am American. But, I am also a Sudanese national. I also speak their language, I know their culture, I am Sudanese. 

I have dealt with a large amount of Islamophobia and xenophobia. I have been accused of extremism, double checked at TSA lines and flat out been called a terrorist. But, there’s no difference nationality-wise between white boy Billie from down the street and myself. We both hold that blue passport.

So, I can only imagine the hatred and disrespect Afghans will endure upon their arrival. As they immigrate to the country of immigrants, they will be hated for nothing more than their nationality.

It still baffles me to think that one can truly bully a refugee simply because they are fleeing their homeland. It almost seems tedious to explain the realities of a refugee. They are not coming to the United States to try their first overly inflated burger from McDonald’s or to gamble their life’s savings away in Las Vegas. They are fleeing persecution, violence, death; they are trying to save their lives.

As they do so, they need support and kindness — not anger and even more violence. From Japanese internment camps during World War II, to the mass deportation of Mexican civilians; from the whitewashing of Italian immigrants, to the never-ending Islamophobia, the United States has had its fair share of xenophobia.

What people aren’t getting is that if it were up to these refugees, they would return to their home, to their culture, to their family in a heartbeat if there was promise of a safe life. Unfortunately, there’s not. 

Refugees are fighting for their lives. As we sit in the comfort of our nation’s stability, it is near impossible to know the pain that these innocent people are enduring. However, it takes nothing from us to treat them with kindness and respect. It’s the least we can do.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply