My brother plays soccer on a team that is composed ? with the exception of him ? entirely of Bosnian refugees. Including the coach. He’s learned some Bosnian in order to get along, and they have a successful team.

You’d think that in America, people would be welcoming of such a team. Surprisingly, that’s not always the case.

His team was playing an away game about an hour away from home when they had to call the police because the opposing team and parents were getting too violent and yelling about “foreigners.” The police escorted my brother’s team onto their bus and they went home. He said that the ride home was silent until one of his teammates said quietly, “Welcome to America.”

My city, Utica, has the third highest percentage of refugees in the nation because the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees is located there. Both of my parents have always worked at the Refugee Center and a lot of our family friends are refugees, so I am able to see firsthand how difficult it can be to relocate to America when you’ve already lost almost everything you had.

It’s not like people are here because they thought it would be fun. It’s more like they’re here because soldiers bombed their house, then raped and killed their family members. So they come and Americans accuse them of trying to “steal jobs.”

In truth, the jobs they take at first are often menial jobs that Americans have already turned down. Which makes it all the more difficult for the refugees, since in many cases they were highly paid professionals in their home countries. It’s not always easy to transfer a medical license to another country.

The hatred and fear that Americans show towards refugees always amazes me. One group of refugees in Utica is the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of men from the Sudan whose families were killed by soldiers when they were children. The boys banded together and made their way north as a group. They became like a family over the years.

Well, a few weeks after some of these guys came to Utica, four of them were walking to church when a lady looked out her window and called the police because four black guys were outside. The police came and frisked them. Eventually they were allowed to go on their way, but what kind of first impression did that give them of our country? “Welcome to America,” guys.

It’s true that a lot of Americans do live up to our reputation of being a welcoming country, but a sickening number of Americans do not. We should be welcoming of all immigrants, but particularly of refugees, because they never foresaw that their lives would end up here. The only difference between you and them is that you were born here and they had to find the courage to come.

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