Refuse Refuge or Not?

{This blog post is not about the Institute for Writing and Mass Media, but it is my final project for the class}

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “refugee” as a person who flees a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.  Unfortunately, in light of recent events, the word “refugee” seems to mean something completely different than the definition outlined in the dictionary; it seems that “refugee” has almost become synonymous with “terrorist.”  Nine times out of ten, perhaps even more, refugees are just trying to escape horrid living situations.  I had the unique opportunity of interviewing a family of refugees who came to America from Venezuela after going through years of persecution in their home country, and they were gracious enough to let me tell their story.

It was an ordinary afternoon when Carmen* heard someone at the door.  A man with a gun came into her home pointing a gun at her and forcing her to her daughter’s room.  The man had already tied her father-in-law up and placed him on the bed, and then he tied her up as well.  He was there with three other men, and they were searching the house for anything valuable, whether it be money or proof that Carmen’s husband was an insurgent against the government.  The man kept asking Carmen where their guns, gold, and money were, but she told him that they didn’t own any of those things.  After accepting that they wouldn’t get any information out of her, the men left the room where they had locked Carmen and her father-in-law and started searching the house for anything they could find that would be of worth to them.  While all this was going on, Carmen kept telling her daughter goodbye because she was worried the men were going to shoot her.  About forty-five minutes later, the men left Carmen’s house because they couldn’t find anything that they were looking for.  Carmen got her daughter to untie her, and when she left her daughter’s room, she saw that the house was trashed.  For a while after this kidnapping experience, Carmen and her husband Juan* did not feel safe living in their house.

Before this extreme kidnapping case, Juan had been receiving some threats to himself and his family.  Juan was an active member in his church, and he would frequently invite American representatives from his church to his home to eat dinner with his family.  He also worked designing and printing posters, and some of his clients were ordering propaganda posters to protest against the government.  Because of these two activities combined, some men started to spy on Juan to make sure he wasn’t participating in any suspicious activities and planning to rise up against the government.  After some time of being spied on, Juan began receiving death threats over loudspeakers attached to trucks, seeing posters that were saying that he was a traitor to his country, and having his house vandalized with spray paint among other things.

A while after the kidnapping incident, Juan and Carmen started to feel safe, and they began staying at their home more frequently and things were good for a while.  Unfortunately, things did not stay that way for long, and soon the family started receiving threats again.  When history started repeating itself, Juan and Carmen realized that Venezuela was no longer a safe place for them to stay, and they found someone in the United States that was willing to sponsor them so that they could enter the country.  They are so grateful that they were able to come into the United States as refugees because now they are able to live life without worrying about being shot at or threatened, and they are much happier.

While this is just one case of a family who sought refuge from a corrupt government by moving to the United States, the majority of refugee cases are likely very similar.  U.S. citizens are sheltered from seeing the horrid living conditions people are in around the world, and when it comes to assisting refugees, many people turn up their nose.  Refugees are just seeking a place to be free and feel safe, and if the United States of America is willing to help those people, it can benefit from a heightened cultural exposure and a sense of accomplishment that can only come from giving help to those in need.  The vast majority of refugees are not a threat to the country, and it would be best if people could put themselves in the shoes of the refugees and assist those seeking shelter the best that they can.

*Names have been changed for security.

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