Anyone who’s an American citizen today that fled from another country has a difficult story to tell. With this previous election and all of the tension it caused, especially with the travel ban, I think it’s important for natural born American citizens to understand where refugees are coming from, literally. I remember coming to America and not knowing where I was or what language people around me were speaking. I remember coming home from school to my tired mom who was working night shift, and what I don’t remember was seeing my dad very often because he was away all day, working to put food on the table. Mom worked night shift and took care of the kids during the day, while dad worked as much overtime as his body could handle.
I remember feeling like I didn’t belong, feeling left out, and being bullied every single day simply because I wasn’t what others consider American. Worst of all, I remember being told what to believe, who to believe, which religions were “right” and being told that I was in America so I needed to speak English, not Bosnian or German.
It is so unfortunate to see so many people close themselves off to the rest of the world, with physical barriers as well as mental ones. I encourage you to educate yourself if you don’t already, and I don’t just mean watching the news or searching America’s history on google. Read about other countries and other cultures. Educate yourself on other religions and legal systems. Take a look at the discrimination, wars, and separation that other people have had to deal with. Maybe then more people will be open minded. Maybe then more people will understand why refugees would rather die than go back to their own countries, where strangers enter your home and assault you, women have no right to speak without a man’s permission and they can’t even think about leaving the house. Maybe then people will begin to understand what it feels like to live in fear, even after you become an American citizen, because you’re constantly wondering if you will be forced to go back to the country you were born in to face the horrific death and destruction you had to witness.
Bosnia was a beautiful place before the war caused chaos and corruption. To my parents who grew up in this country, the bombings made it unrecognizable. When your options are to stay and risk dying, or enduring something even worse than that, what do you do. Where do you go. How can people feel as though they have nowhere to go when the world is so big.
What makes me un-American, what makes me different from natural born citizens, that I wasn’t born in this country? That my family comes from a war-torn country where strangers entered their homes and beat them unconscious, used their guns to knock their teeth out and then left them for dead? Am I un-American because my family members were separated from their loved one and were never seen again for over 15 years?
I went to an English speaking school in America. I went to grade school, middle school, and high school in America. I watch football. My parents spent years waiting to get their green cards in this country. We celebrate holidays in America that don’t exist in bosnia because my parents didn’t want my brother and I to feel different growing up. But somehow I don’t belong because I also watch European football, I eat Bosnian food, I speak 2 other languages and I live in this country safely even though I wasn’t born here.
I’m American. I’m also Bosnian and German. Why can’t I identify as all 3? I’m American because I’m not sitting in a jail cell. I’m American because I wasn’t raped, beaten, and assaulted during the Srebrenica genocide. I’m American because my family was illegally forced out of Germany and America saved us. I’m American because I’m alive today, and I’m alive because I am an American.
Some people are under the impression that immigrants hate America, and that’s why we are different, and that’s why we don’t abandon our countries practices, but this is not the case. I love America; I love this country and it’s people, and the uniqueness it has which can’t be compared to any other place in the world. I love the kind friends I have grown to trust and love. I love the education I am so grateful to receive. I love the peace of mind it has given my parents. I love the kind, wonderful and caring people who gave me toys as a child, which only later did I find out were charity because the 1 suitcase my parents brought only contained enough clothing for my brother and I. But most of all I love America for how accepting, open, and welcoming it is. I speak from experience when I say that this is something that makes America great, don’t lose that.