Immigration in America: Teen Reflections

As we embarked on our trip to Arizona and our exploration of “immigration in America today,” I asked our participants to write their own reflections on what they think should be on the Statue of Liberty today.

Their responses, below, come in the form of poems, letters, and reflections—with an intention to let immigrants, migrants, and refugees know what to expect when they arrive in the US in the current climate.

The results are extremely moving—some hopeful, some very dark, while others begin to wrestle with holding their ideals up against reality.

1

To fly with the wind

To escape from the terror

To stay with your loved ones forever and ever

To see the lady

Standing there

You know she is looking at you

For that’s why she’s there

You’ve stayed in your home until you can’t

But then you are welcomed in to our home and rant

What’s ours is yours and nothing can change that

But you still feel like a stranger in this new town

But it won’t be long before you call it your own

You get yourself a job

Maybe buy yourself some cob

But you will always be part of this new happy ending that is yet to begin

2

Dear People of The World,

Although America may be better than your home,

Although you live in a war-torn country 

and all you want to do is escape to your dream country,

America,

I just want to warn you,

right now this country is a mess. 

We have a racist, sexist, homophobic president that thinks that everything he says is right and 

doesn’t have a single idea on how to run a country.

There are sick people who have access to machine guns

and are going into SCHOOLS and murdering CHILDREN.

Right now, 

this so-called country of opportunity and freedom,

is not what it appears to be in the news. 

So yes, 

this broken country of mine where everyone only cares about themselves 

may be better than yours, 

but all I know is that if our founding fathers were alive today,

they would not be happy with what this country has become.

Sincerely,

Me

3

In this day and age where politics can be really scary, we should still be really grateful that we can remove our president in a fair and democratic way. I would just have the dates and the headlines on the statue:

February XXIV, MDCCCLXVIII  Yea 126-Nay 47 “Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, stands impeached of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

December XIX, MCMXCVIII  Yea 228-Nay 206, Yea 205-Nay 229, Yea 221-Nay 212, Yea 148-Nay 285.  “Clinton impeached…2nd in history vows to do job till term’s last hour. President digs in.”

December XVII MMXIX  Yea 230-Nay 197, Yea 229-Nay 198 “Trump impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”

4

“Give me your tired your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door. Unless you are dark-skinned, Latina, Indian, Asian, Black, poor, HIV positive, LGBTQIA+, Muslim, under-educated, non-English-speaking…”

5

America today is a little bit rough around the edges, but on the inside there are some beautiful things to look forward to. There are countless opportunities all around and that is one of the reasons you may just be lucky enough to live out the American dream. People are able to work together to better each other and the country in different ways depending on where you are in the country and your life and who you’re with. Even though it is not all sunshine and happiness there are many ways to find it in this country and there is hope for everyone.

6

flashing lights blinding your eyes 

the smell of cigarettes running into your nostrils

big, booming, and never boring, your next chapter begins.

once you come through with your visa or green card, you become part of a country, a nation that bands together

wham smack, bustling though crowds, you become a part of a hunting match, every man for himself

sometimes you may feel alone, but come hell or high water this country builds the bridge in order to stay afloat

throwing your old life behind you and throwing yourself into a new life, 

welcome, be who you are, but join this community, one for all, all for one,

when stormy skies and seas take your home and transportation away, we’ll find you a place to stay

when you need help getting out the door to the new you, we’ll be there pushing you

you may feel like your drowning but there’s always a lifeguard there with a floatie to help you

welcome, we can’t wait to see oh the great places you’ ll go

7

You come from far away

Whether it is hundreds or thousands of miles

You are now in a new orbit

Before you, I have seen many different people come by me

Different appearances, perceptions, and missions

And they somehow all wind up in America

Where they are a new person

Their fears are no more

No one is chasing them down

At least for a little while

But they all have a choice, no matter their social standing

The same choice that you now face

You can be different

Or you can sit by and watch

This land is far from perfect

I hope you know that

Sometimes it feels like we are drained of humanity

We let power triumph over justice

We don’t take care of our neighbors

We favor the few instead of the many

Hate will never disappear

But this is still the America you dreamed of

You came here for a reason

Remember that reason and hold it dear

Most of the ones I see take it for granted

But you know what the rest of the world is like

You deserve a real home

So don’t give in to our mistakes

Be the America you want to see come true

Because it isn’t a place

America is just how you view it

And no matter how you view America

There is a unity that binds us together: Hope

We all have hope for ourselves,

And this complicated nation

But remember, You are new to us

Just as we are new to you

So I ask you now, who are you going to be

In this obscure, and foreign orbit

Since you come from so far away

8

To any immigrant—you are completely unwelcome here. Because of a number of political representatives, you may never even be able to enter this country. If you do, you will face so much difficulty on a day-to-day basis. You will have to interact with a system that is rooted in hatred and hostility. You may have to struggle with a language barrier that keeps you from being integrated into American society. You may even have to live in constant fear of being returned back to the place you came from, where there are unfavorable situations waiting for you. Asylum, in both the figurative and literal meanings of the word, may never be something you can actually experience. Of course, there are many people here who care about your well-being, but don’t know how to help. So, we will continue to feel helpless as your rights are taken away and your lives stay unstable.

9

Welcome to America. 

We’re happy you’re here. 

At least, some of us.

It’s a bit odd here.

We use inches and miles and call football soccer.

It’s quite fun here.

We have contests for eating and dodgeball.

It’s not the greatest here. 

Our president needs work, a bit more than we’d like. 

It’s also incredible here. 

We non-discriminatory people welcome you. 

Regardless of race, color, creed, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

All are welcome. 

Unless you discriminate or hate.

We can’t have that here. 

10

We don’t know where you’re going 

Where you’ve come from or where you’ve been

We just see your huddled masses

Teeming shores within

 

And from our sea washed sunset gates

We will refuse to close our door

Our imprisoned lightning’s hot as hell

And it will pave the path for more

 

The news, the norm, the numbers

It’s too scary for open eyes

But I refuse to close mine

And deny your shattered cries

 

They push you out to run away

And hide under their beds

But it’s pretty hard to be the hero 

If your dignity in shreds

11

Dear Immigrant(s),

Today we stand forth upon the nation of freedom.

You have endured so much on your journey, but this is not the end.

You will have to make new friends and get a new job.

On top of that, if you choose, you would have to set up a future for the next generation

As they will carry on your legacy. 

Also, you will face a lot of criticism.

People may want to bring you down but don’t let them.

12

You have come 

Is this what you hope for? 

If you shall receive 

This shall be what you came for 

In the dawn of eve 

Among the land upon you 

Fulfilled construction reigns 

Upon your settling. 

Preparation for the finest 

May you receive however 

Humanity may be bias 

Welcome to the land 

Brand new, but you shall understand 

The key to democracy 

Comes great perplexity. 

With tolerance comes persistence 

However, you may keep your distance 

For this nation 

Was not meant for recreation 

Or shall our liberty 

Give freedom?

13

You are strong

You are brave

You have marched and struggled to get here

Your journey is over

Woo hoo!

You have crawled and tried so desperately to be here

You have made it!

Woo hoo!

You are free

Welcome welcome!

Each of your brings greatness to this country

You are strong

You are brace

You have marched and struggled to get here

Your journey is over.

14

They talk of a “land of the free”

But is it really so free?

People are shot

Children ripped away from their mothers

Tell me that’s not

Real, but it is true for others.

Our sea levels are rising.

Before long I’ll be under water.

You know what else is rising?

Bigotry.

But yet.

There are the saints

They aren’t Trump’s little pet.

Hopefully you’ll be lucky to meet them.

15

We are not here to help you. We only like you if your skin is the color of peaches, your hair not wound. Because of people who are supposed to be in charge will make you scared. They will quiz you and test you and hurt you. If you manage to even get through the borders, they will make your life a living hell. You will have to deal with hatred and bigotry, all while working a minimum wage job at your local pizza store. It will be hard to understand other people, there could be a language barrier. It will be hard to make friends: everyone will think of you as the “other.” You will be scared and traumatized. You may never get to have the experiences you dreamt of or the family you wished to make. Anyways, good luck!

16

On the edge of New York harbor

A powerful woman stands

Below her a mighty river and above her a torch in her hand

She’s supposed to symbolize our 

Freedom and peace

And tell us to have no fear

But lately our country has exposed itself 

And it’s all finally becoming clear

We are a nation of immigrants

We come from far and wide

Yet we push away who doesn’t look like us

We force them to step aside

We lock them in cages and 

Yank them away from their families and their rights

We turn into monsters who can’t accept change

And refuse to accept our spite

On the edge of New York harbor

A mighty woman stands

She is said to defend our freedom 

But right now I don’t see how she can

17

Six Haikus That I Wrote 

Harry Houdini

An NYC immigrant

And illusionist

 

Founder of Google 

Sergey Brin out of Russia

Worth billions today

 

Grandparents Kovacs

From Hungary to NYC

Bringing family   

 

Other grandparents 

Came From Poland & Russia

To Lower East Side 

 

Mexican migrants

Looking for safety not stress 

Into the US
 

Millions of people

Want to come to the US

A good idea?  

 

NO

18

State of liberty, 

What people thought America was

A free country with not so many issues

Today is the opposite.

It should be the statue of racism.

Compared to other countries

America is great

Without comparing

It isn’t that great.

19

Realistic Poem for the Base of the Statue of Liberty

The magnificent green lady, her hand held high,

Lights up your path through her golden door.

As you leave behind everything,

I warn you not to dock upon this shore. 

 

You leave behind what we could never imagine 

Hoping for a better life. 

Be prepared to be scorned with a passion. 

We have turned away, yet you are here to stay.

 

So as you pass beneath her decaying arm,

Holding a radiant golden globe

Be warned—we have lost our charm. 

Stay true—do not conform to our lost society.

 

We are sorry we have turned away from who we once were-

A society dependent on immigrants and fueled by fresh air and insight. 

If you stay, please help us return to our old way. 

20

Immigrants come to a country that’s key value is said to be freedom

Traveling from places where people are oppressed and discriminated against for their beliefs.

Strengthen yourself by having empathy for everybody around you.

Help those around you. Doesn’t everybody deserve an equal chance?

Allow yourself an open mind, get to know people before judging them.

Recognize that we are one country, one people.

Don’t let others keep you from your constitutional rights.

Expose yourself to new cultures and allow yourself to accept and celebrate diversity.

Realize this is a nation made up of differences. 

Tell your story to be remembered how YOU want to be remembered.

Hands kindly extent to those who need our help.

Always be grateful for the rights that YOU have earned.

Never forget that you are strong, you have the ability to make change.

It takes only one to make someone feel safe and happy.

Tell others around you to be accepting of everybody, not just those like them.

Speak out for what you believe in, be an inspiration.

Empathy is crucial in understanding other hardships.

Eventually will everybody be free?

More people become a part of our country everyday, make them feel welcomed.

Settle for no less than what you believe in, because what you believe in is how you will be remembered.