Refugees Strengthen Our Communities

Refugees have invigorated our economies, brought innovation to our towns, and strengthened our communities through their contributions to our public life and cultural institutions. Below are the stories of just a few of the refugees who share what it means to be a part of their American communities.

“I’ve come to realize that being an American doesn’t have anything to do with birth, papers, forms, and borders and everything to do with steadfast allegiance to the principles of freedom and the belief that anyone who is persecuted can find asylum in that American promise. America is a land built from its founding to receive the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

As a new American and a refugee, I realize that I am part of a fabric of people that at one point were all strangers coming from every nation. When I first arrived in America fleeing a genocide in my country, I was also welcomed by strangers who hosted me in their own home and then I became a member of their family. A steep drop in U.S. refugee admissions would mean a death sentence as an alternative for those “Americans” that are a part of our broad family who are left behind because they are persecuted for the same ideals America fights for. Let’s fight for them too.”

—Ayda Zugay, former refugee and genocide survivor

“[It’s been] 20 years since I came to Bucks County, fleeing the conflict in Liberia as a refugee.   

But there’s a quiet story about refugees that doesn’t get told often in his country. It’s about the welcome extended to people like me. And I wanted to express my gratitude because it’s a story you won’t read often in the media. Especially not when it comes to conservative towns.   

I live in Levittown, for example. And such places get an unfair reputation for xenophobia when you talk to people who don’t live there. The truth is that Levittown has welcomed me as one of its own.”

—Joseph Sackor, former refugee living in Levittown, PA, Go Erie

“Staying in refugee camps is like living with pandemics on top of pandemics. There are no words to describe how thankful I am to resettlement agencies and the welcoming communities for stepping in to change my life, making me feel at home and helping me thrive. 

My family and I voted for the first time in our entire life in the last presidential election. I urge the President to increase refugee resettlements to further diversify the nation.” 

Mohamed Juma, former refugee 

 “I was three months into my first semester of college, working hard and dreaming about a bright future, when the civil war broke out. I witnessed unspeakable violence and walked a harrowing 200 miles on foot to Sierra Leone. 

Despite this trauma, the generosity and welcome embrace I received in America proved that new beginnings are possible.” 

Saymu Sackor, former refugee and ICU nurse, Bucks County Courier Times