We Are Guests: A Gift of the American Spirit To Refugees and Immigrants

Nejib - Antioch, Tennessee
Entered on March 19, 2009

The United States of America is truly a land of opportunity. People of different races, ethnicities, religions, and cultures come here in search of a better life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since I was once an immigrant, I can say from personal experience that America is still the most welcoming nation on earth. Its people are generous, kind and sympathetic. Even though much of what we hear about immigration these days is negative, people still come to this great land for the same reasons that brought them here decades ago: to enjoy the peace and prosperity that exists here.

Refugees coming to this country from Bhutan or Rwanda, Afghanistan or Somalia, are fleeing from war ravaged homes. Many fear torture and persecution in their home countries. Some have had loved ones killed or maimed in front of them. They come here looking for an end, looking to new life, a new beginning, and they often find it.

From the many federal agencies, to local volunteer agencies, to individual volunteers, Americans work together to resettle refugees. They help them find jobs, mentor their children and help with homework to assist assimilation into a new society. Many refugees describe the hospitality of America as healing for them, for through this process, they feel they can become happy, useful and productive members of society.

I often wonder what motivates America’s kindness and generosity for the less fortunate. Why do Americans welcome refugees and immigrants – providing training, resources, and opportunities … sometimes even hosting newcomers in their own homes?

Many American citizens help directly and are actively involved because of religious, moral or personal convictions, but just as many are not aware but still help indirectly. Even those who may feel that America should take care of its own understand that helping those less fortunate—for no other reason than it is the right thing to do—is a measure of America’s character, a part of what makes her great in the eyes of the world.

As a former immigrant, now a citizen myself, I believe in the promise of immigration provided by the United States —in the past, in the present, and for the wonderful future of fulfillment. I believe America still stands as the greatest hope for those who are oppressed and seeking a new way. Hope for those who are looking for hard work and a hand up, not a hand out. Hope for those who want to share in the dream. I believe America has always had a strong sense of humanity and history and has always felt a responsibility to share, and to lift the lives of the least of those among us.

During these times of bad news — about our economy, the state of our educational and healthcare systems, and illegal immigration – I still stand firm in my belief that America can offer immigrants a wonderful country and a magnificent life.