Editor’s note: This story was written by a high school student in Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Summer Youth Leadership Program. This story is part of a special back-to-school issue.
By Monique Saeteurn
Is there a difference between a refugee and an immigrant? Yes, there is a difference. Many don’t know or understand the difference between a refugee and an immigrant.
A refugee is a person who flees to a foreign country to escape danger or persecution. An immigrant is a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence. Many people of color in America, especially Asians and Pacific Islanders, are refugees or immigrants.
Your parents, grandparents, and/or great grandparents came to the United States because they wanted to start a new life or they were forced to come. That’s where being a refugee or immigrant comes into play.
My family from Laos had to flee to the United States because of the dangerous war occuring at the time. My mom was about 7 years old when she came to the new country. She couldn’t remember much of what actually happened, but she later researched what happened and why our family had to come to the United States.
The U.N. actually helped my family settle into the new country and get us out of Laos. During the war, family members of mine were chased down by the Communists. That’s why we had to flee out of the country and go to the United States. My family members are considered refugees. I do have the majority of my family living in Washington, and we are very close to one another.
Other families came to the United States because they wanted a better future. That’s when people immigrate. Chinese and Japanese families were the first Asian/Pacific Islanders to come to the United States to seek jobs. As the men worked, they tried to get their families to come as well. They are considered to be immigrants.
There is a huge difference between a refugee and an immigrant, especially when it comes to history and the stories behind them. ♦