A Glimpse at Refugees’ First Night in America

I admit I’ve never spent the time contemplating what it’s like stepping foot in a new land as a refugee. The New York Times’ short documentary about a group of refugees’ first night in the U.S. at an airport hotel was moving. Watching it created a swell of emotions that brought me to tears.

I was moved by the uncertainty and hope expressed in the conversations between family members. I laughed watching the kids’ excitement and curiosity about their hotel room.

Despite their being the lucky few that made it through our screening process, I know these refugees had worries that at times overshadowed their optimism and newfound security.

Although my experience doesn’t come anywhere near what these refugees went through, I remember the hope and fear I felt as a 9-year-old moving to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico. Only my dad spoke English. My family had no place to go when we got to the airport, so we stayed there until my dad found an emergency shelter nearby.

I was both excited about living in the states and terrified because we had no home. My family struggled financially for many years after our move. Sometimes hope was hard to find. Other times you could hold it in your hands.

I encourage you to watch the documentary, Hotel U.S.A. It adds some much-needed humanity to our country’s abstract refugee debate.