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From Refugee to Citizen

I would like to start off by saying I am usually not very vocal about my views on politics and policy, but this recent development is something I cannot stay silent on. I do not write this to express the cons and pros of this policy, but more so to reach out on a more personal level on why this new anti-immigration policy is a step backwards from who we are as a country.

As many of you all know, President Trump issued an executive order on Friday that would stop the citizens of Syria from entering the United States along with a suspension of immigration for a certain amount of days from other countries linked to terrorism. Furthermore, there has been a suspension of the program that admits refugees from around the world for a certain amount of days while the government creates revised policies for entry to the US.

Syria is a country currently being run through with civil war. Its people’s struggles are splashing our daily headlines with constant news of violence and horrific images. Syria and many other countries in the area are the new refugee crisis of this decade.

It was only a couple decades ago when Cambodia was going through its own civil war. It seems like lifetimes ago to many people, and it only appears as a few sentences in most history books taught around the nation, but to my parents, aunts, and uncles, it was years of life-changing strife.

Years of bloodshed, losing family, friends, losing a home, living on unclean water and food, and surviving just to see the dawn break over the next day. It was years of feeling utter loneliness and despair and living in a real version of hell. The small country and its people went through so many years of struggles and going unnoticed by the rest of the world.

My mom and dad went through this, and I won’t make this post longer with details of their horrendous stories. What I want to stress is that my parents found the little light in their personal prison cell in the form of entrance to the United States. They came to this country as refugees and put themselves through full time jobs and night school to learn English and to make something out of themselves. Today my parents stand before me as strong and educated citizens, and I cannot even imagine that their teenage years were filled with genocide and warfare.

Today is Chinese New Year, and I found myself reflecting on all of this as I whispered my thanks into my prayers. I am forever more than grateful to those who worked hard to bring in the forgotten refugees of Cambodia into America many years ago. They gave my family hope when it seemed like every other path to take led to more danger.

I am constantly surrounded and amazed by friends and colleagues with ancestry from all over the world. I grew up proud that the country I lived in thrived off its reputation of being a ‘melting pot’. A place where so many cultures and religions intertwined together, and it was normal. A land of promises, safety, and security. A country that had the powers to compassionately open its doors to refugees and others in forgotten places, and to give so many people a second chance and an escape from death and further torture.

And that is why this new development saddens me to my core. This ban echoes everything America is not.

Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen are another Cambodia. Maybe on a grander, more public scale this time and definitely with more controversial issues. But to the core, they are countries of refugees and of people who are innocent and unfairly and unjustly suffering through different regimes’ power struggles and religious clashes. So please. Please. Let’s think of the children, women, and men drowning in a battle they never asked for before we close our doors on them.

 

Agree or disagree with me on this new development, but regardless, this is my family’s story. I am so ever proud and grateful to the powers of America taking in my parents many years ago. This is America’s strength, and let it never disappear in the midst of fear and misguided beliefs.

-M

P.S. Do not even get me started on the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule. It saddens and frustrates me to see what this means for the future of global health and women’s health around the globe. That itself is a whole other rant.

P.S.S. – To those wondering why my family and I celebrate Chinese New Year: I have some Chinese ancestry in my background.

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