For my advanced essay, I wanted to highlight not only the hardships of migration, but the shock and effect that it has on people who are put in these stressful situations. I attempted to highlight the realities of immigrants, and bring he reader’s attention to the risk and danger that these people live in in order to bring awareness to the desperation that comes with seeking safety.
I saw an article while I was scrolling through my computer the other day. And an image popped up that made me start to think. The image featured a family. A family that walks, carefully and cautiously, away from a large place of greenery and down a strip of barren road. The father, on the far left, carries his baby in a carrier on his front and looks after a child to the right, patting his head comfortingly. The aforementioned boy has a thick, puffy jacket draped around his shoulders, a few sizes too big but efficient in keeping him warm. His brother next to him has a thick jacket as well, but the hood up and the rest of the jacket hanging off his small body. Their mother next to him dotes over him, a worried expression on her face. On her back are several jackets and supplies for their journey, but on her front she as well has a carrier. Unlike the husband, hers is empty. She holds the hand of the last child on the far right, his expression frozen in a crying face as his mother pulls him along. They seek one thing: safety within the place they’re going.
What is often misunderstood about the experience of immigrants is how desperate immigrants are to seek safety. Immigration is a very dangerous journey with several potentially life-threatening risks. Why take them? Why put so much effort or money into leaving a country that’s been your home all your life and go into a country that you know nothing about? You would only put everything on the line if you had to. This is the dilemma that immigrants face when coming into a new country. Whether for personal wellbeing, family or education, nobody immigrates on a whim. It is a frustrating and difficult process, and people do not consider how many risks people take to immigrate.
Mr. Block, in english class, showed us a very insightful video. This video featured syrian refugees that immigrated to Lesbos, Greece, having conversations with tourists who were in greece on vacation. During these conversations, a lot is opened up about the narratives on both sides, but we see the thoughts of the immigrants more so, and a compelling story is brought to the surface.
Two men talk on the beach, one a tourist and the other a refugee. When sharing introductions, the refugee says, “I was a refugee in Turkey for two years, and now I am in Greece.” His tourist counterpart expresses his concern when he says, “How awful. That is quite a journey.” To which the syrian refugee responds, “the trip was relatively safe, because I was nearly killed three times in Syria.”
In just this small exchange, we see two very different perspectives. On one hand, we have this refugee who clearly has been through several ordeals, and was in such an unsafe environment that he was willing to risk everything he had to leave. His life was in danger, and he prioritized leaving that situation to start a new, healthier and safer life. On the other hand, we get to see the realization in this tourist, who up until that point had no idea of any of the perspectives that came from immigrants. He was so taken aback by the nonchalant-ness in his refugee counterpart when talking about potentially facing death three times, it became clearer to him that no one leaves just on impulse. Something that perfectly frames this is later in the video, we see two women talking, and the female refugee declares, “we love Syria, but fate has brought us here.” Most people misunderstand the desperation of some refugee situations and how they are willing to do virtually anything to escape them.
The importance of migration is encapsulated beautifully in the book Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Exit West is a book about two young lovers, Nadia and Saeed, and their struggles trying to stay together as they try to immigrate to a foreign country. Exit west is a commentary on how migration is treated and reacted to on both sides, the immigrant side and the non-immigrant side. The book does an amazing job of highlighting the struggles of immigrants seeking refuge. To highlight the position that refugees are put in when they immigrate, Moshin Hamid writes, “when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” This quote is an in-depth look of the immigrant experience, in a sense that desperate actions are taken for the promise of refuge in countries they aren’t home to. You can feel the essence of the pain of leaving behind all you know, and all of the people you love for the greater good, with hopes to start a new chapter that brings forth promise.
In Mr. Kay’s race theory class, we studied in-depth some of the lives that immigrants lead. To assist with the perspective, Mr. Kay gave us an amazing resource, called the Interactive Immigrant Experience. What it is, is a compilation of biographies of real life immigrant experiences and what it does is it takes you through the life of an immigrant trying to get into the United States. I followed the journey of a young man named Hamid from Iran, a very gifted computer scientist who was trying to get into the United States to find schooling and work in his field. He is granted a visa, and is hit with good luck when his job offers to upgrade his visa to a work one, and he meets a wonderful woman whom he falls in love with. Trouble arises when said wife’s mother becomes ill, and you have to decide whether to let your wife go and visit her ill mother, or make her stay where it’s safe. I decided to make her stay, and sacrifice her never seeing her mother again, because if she had, she would not have been granted re-entry into the U.S. when Trump’s muslim ban took place. This helped me put an insane amount of things into perspective, and realize how shallow and blind people are to these real life experiences that immigrants are going through.
The immigrant experience has never been an easy one. Throughout the generations, people have had to put themselves into life-threatening situations. But why? The answer is almost horrifying. It’s to escape life-threatening situations. When we peel back the layers of the experiences of immigrants, we find shocking truths in other people’s realities. We are blind when it comes to the amount of hoops people have to jump through and the risks people take to seek what they need to survive. People ignore the reality of people’s situations, and the dangers that they face day to day and instead see it as an infraction upon their country. It’s quite the opposite. People risk everything to be able to live safely and happily, and should be respected when they immigrate. Nobody knows the other half of the story, but my hope is that people will begin to.
J, Peter. “16 Children – 16 Photos: Click the Black Background and Switch on Their Reality.” Politiken. Politiken, February 28, 2017. https://politiken.dk/fotografier/art5849931/Click-the-black-background-and-switch-on-their-reality.
McEvoy, Gráinne. “What Would You Do? Take an Immigrant’s Journey.” Experience Magazine. Accessed January 14, 2020. https://expmag.com/immigrant-experience/#all_opening.
“Migrants’ Stories From a Greek Island.” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 29, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/video/multimedia/100000004237409/migrants-stories-from-a-greek-island.html.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid