Ahead of President Trump’s first address to the United Nations, Oxfam welcomed refugees into President Trump’s childhood home in Queens, NY. Oxfam rented the home and called on President Trump and other world leaders to do more to support and resettle refugees in the United States and around the world.
Oxfam staff displayed a “Refugees Welcome” mat and banner in front of the house and invited refugees from three countries - Somalia, Vietnam and Syria - who have resettled here in the US to tell their stories and show that refugees are just regular people who have faced difficult circumstances. Photo and video content is available.
“Oxfam hosted refugees at President Trump’s childhood home to declare that all people, refugees included, have the right to a safe place to call home,” said Shannon Scribner, Oxfam America’s acting director for humanitarian programs & policy. “What makes America great is our diversity of experiences, ideas, talents, and the opportunity for anyone to succeed. What better place to represent that than the former home of the President of the United States in Queens, NY – one of the most diverse communities in the world.”
The refugees who came to President Trump’s childhood home have been welcomed by Americans in their communities and are contributing greatly in return. Their experiences give a face and a voice to an issue that is too often politicized with myths, lies, and fears.
“By the time my brother and I arrived in the refugee camp, we had already lost our Mom, younger brother and little sister. They all passed away on the boat journey. After spending a year and a half in a refugee camp, we finally came to America and were greeted with such warmth and open arms by a diverse community in Southern California," said Uyen Nguyen, who fled Vietnam at 10 years old. "With this administration, it feels like new immigrants aren’t given the same warm welcome. I have never talked much about my journey, but I now feel it’s my responsibility to spread understanding of what it’s like for refugees – and hopefully open the doors for those who need our support the most.”
Oxfam also incorporated items of significance to refugees resettled in the US and elsewhere to provide a window into the refugee experience – refugees’ coffee cups and serving trays on the table, books and photos on the desk, and children’s toys in President Trump’s childhood bedroom. The items draw the parallel between this upper middle class house in Queens, the homes and lives refugees have left behind, and their points of refuge along the way.
Abdi Iftin told his story of first fleeing conflict in Somalia to Kenya with his brother and his journey to America on his own: “I’m so lucky that I’ve been able to a build a new life in the United States. I had to leave my home and family behind, but here I can work hard and help provide for them. Today especially I feel like I am living the American dream because I can speak out for what I believe in, and I don’t have to be afraid.”
All three branches of the US Government will be making critical decisions in the coming weeks that will impact the lives of refugees. President Trump will decide how many refugees the US will admit over the next year; Oxfam is urging the administration to set that number for at least 75,000 people. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments against President Trump’s harmful and discriminatory travel ban that slams the door on vulnerable refugees on October 10th. Congress will consider how much funding to provide to critical programs that support refugees here in the US and around the world. And, lastly, world leaders gather this week in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, and will need to tackle our global refugee crisis.
“Lives are hanging in the balance while we wait to see if President Trump and other world leaders will fulfill their duty to uphold the rights of refugees and other displaced people,” continued Scribner. “A year after world leaders came together to make concrete commitments to refugees, no meaningful progress has been made – in fact in many ways the crisis has escalated. Worse yet, the US has abandoned its leadership role, leaving a vacuum in its place.”
The public must continue to demand that their leaders share the responsibility of supporting refugees here in the US and around the world through resettlement, generous funding, and by insisting that the rights of refugees are upheld everywhere.
If it truly wants to make America great again, President Trump’s administration should recommit the federal government to supporting and welcoming refugees.
1. Photos are available here:https://m.box.com/shared_item/https%3A%2F%2Foxfam.box.com%2Fs%2F95jlzfsaalgdj4fnw8a85bww4lk8tmt1
2. Produced video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rT5qr3ygI2k&feature=youtu.be
3. Broll is available here: https://m.box.com/shared_item/https%3A%2F%2Foxfam.box.com%2Fs%2Fl00te8yvah02r00vzr6gkrx7c1t95vxl
4. Oxfam was joined by refugee partners Abdi Iftin and Eiman Ali from Somalia, Uyen Nguyen from Vietnam, and Ghassan Shehadeh from Syria.
5. To learn more and take action, readers can visit www.oxfamamerica.org/welcomehome