Rema is 16. Her family fled Syria as war was breaking out several years ago. She is impressively smart and soaks things up in class despite a limited English proficiency. She is soft spoken and mild mannered, but looks you in the eye when she speaks to you, and is constantly smiling. She has heterochromia—different colored eyes—and is beautiful, Hijab and all. She is not a terrorist.
Zadi is 15. His family fled Iraq after radical islamic terrorists bombed his town and it became clear that it was no longer safe. He is a ball of energy, practically bouncing off of the walls somedays. There’s a joy about him that is contagious. He is quick to own his linguistic limitations, often making fun of himself over his misspelling of words. His confidence and laughter brightens any room he walks into. He is not a terrorist.
Dima is 18. She may be the funniest person I know. She is learning English, a language that was completely new to her when her and her family fled Burma in 2015 amid racially-based and life-threatening persecution. New to English, she still has this ability to make poignant and hilarious jokes despite her limited proficiency. She is always making me laugh in class, and her aggressive sarcasm equals my own. She is not a terrorist.
Carlos is 18. He and his family fled Honduras seeking asylum from the growing and impending gang culture that has developed there. Darwin is relaxed and malleable, keeping his head down and only asking clarification questions when he thinks no one else is listening. He’s as smart as they come, thought, and seems determine to forge a life for himself that is beyond what his history may suggest. He is not a terrorist.
Hader is 17. His family fled Baghdad amidst growing concerns for safety. He is on the yearbook staff and may be the most polite young man I’ve ever met. He is aggressive in asking for forgiveness when he feels he is interrupting something to ask me a question, and is constantly encouraging me in my Arabic, even though its mostly garbage. His conversation is always a welcomed surprise, as he is a deep thinker with an active imagination and problem solving ability. He is not a terrorist.
Dina is 19. An Iraqi refugee, she is more mature than any other High School student I have ever met. There have been times when I felt comfortable leaving her in charge of her peers, knowing that the class was in good hands while I ran to the bathroom or made copies. She is extremely caring, and takes interest in the people around her to a degree that most High Schoolers don’t. She is not a terrorist.
Armaeus is 20. He spent most of his life in a refugee camp before coming to the United States, and has a story that would break any one’s heart. Despite his difficult background, he is the happiest kid I know. An elite long-distance runner, he has assimilated into American culture extremely well, and uses his assimilation as a platform to love a wide range of people. His care and concern for the people around him are inspiring, and his appreciation for life shines through in every conversation I’ve ever had with him. He is not a terrorist.
There are millons of others. If you think that immigrants or refugees are a threat, then you probably have never sat down with one, had them in your house, or heard them tell their story. They, being as human as I am, deserve the same shot at life that we all do and denying them that is the most un-Christian and un-American thing that I could imagine. This is not a political issue. It’s life and death.