In Search of the American Dream

Immigration, Politics


Immigration is a hot topic in the news right now, especially with the release of procedures to delay deportation for qualifying young people brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrant parents. What this deferred action option means is that individuals who meet the criteria set forth by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will have the opportunity to live and work legally in the U.S. for an additional two years.

While the debate rages on about America’s broader immigration policy, millions continue to seek refuge in the U.S., some to take advantage of a better economy, educational system, and job opportunities than in their home countries, and others because their lives are in danger, who arrive as refugees seeking asylum from war or persecution.

Refugee Immigrants

Every year, thousands of refugees arrive on American soil looking for a safe place to live and raise their families. In 2011, more than 56,000 refugees sought asylum in the U.S., primarily from Bhutan, Burma, Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq. These and other refugees generally are forced to flee their country of origin because their lives are in grave danger due to violence and/or persecution. Having to leave their entire lives behind to start fresh in a strange place with a new language and different customs means that refugees arriving in America require support and resources in order to resettle and become contributing citizens. Unlike the children of undocumented immigrants who may be eligible for deferred action, refugees and those seeking asylum may legally become permanent residents of the United States.

Fugees Family

Resources for Refugees

Getting adjusted to life in a new country is difficult for all refugees, but is especially hard on refugee children. Though the U.S. government helps refugees settle in communities around the country, many are then left without employment or resources for survival. Poverty is a huge problem in refugee communities, and the children often fall through the cracks in schools after growing up without education in refugee camps. This is where organizations like Fugees Family come in. Fugees Family, Inc. began with one woman, Luma Mufleh, herself a native of Jordan and now a U.S. citizen, coaching a soccer team for local refugee kids. The non-profit has now grown to include a full soccer program, after school tutoring, a private academy, and academic enrichment summer camp for over 150 children who were forced to leave their countries of origin because of war. This and other non-profits around the country provide much-needed support and services for families who have come to the U.S. in search of safety and a new life.

Famous Refugee Immigrants

Many refugees have made, and continue to make valuable contributions to the U.S. and beyond. Here are a few of the most famous refugees who came to America for a new life:

•    Albert Einstein: Einstein came to America from Germany in 1933 after being accused of treason by the Third Reich. Princeton University students benefited from his genius until his death in 1955.

•    Henry Kissinger: The man who was Nixon’s Secretary of State and helped end the Vietnam War was born in Germany. Like Einstein, he came to the U.S. (in 1938) to avoid persecution by the Nazis.

•    Madeleine Albright: Former Secretary of State (and the first woman to hold the job) Madeleine Albright was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She fled with her parents before World War II, arriving in the U.S. by way of London.

•    Wyclef Jean: Music superstar Wyclef Jean was born in Haiti and came to the U.S. at age 9. He attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ, where he met fellow musician Lauryn Hill and formed the hip-hop group The Fugees.

•    Gloria Estefan: Pop music icon, Gloria Estefan, fled Cuba with her family during the Cuban Revolution, relocating to Miami, Florida. She is known as the “Queen of Latin Pop” and has sold over 100 million albums worldwide.