Sunday, March 12, 2017

Knowledge is Power Series: Refugee or Immigrant?

With all of the discussion on immigration, the one term that needs to be clarified is "refugee". What does it mean to be a refugee? What circumstances occur that create refugees? And, where do refugees go?

First, let's define the term. A refugee is a person who is so afraid to stay in his/her country that he/she is forced to leave. 

This fear can be caused by war, religious persecution, the threat of death,  a natural disaster like a flood or a volcanic eruption, or even starvation. In other words, the situation is so bad in the person's home country that he/she is no longer safe to live there. When that occurs, the person or persons flee to another country often with little more than the clothing they are wearing. 

As you have probably seen on television or heard on the news, thousands of people have fled Syria in the last few years because of war. These people have lost their homes, family members, everything they own, and are afraid they will lose their lives or those of their children. They have set out to sea in overloaded boats, crossed dangerous territories, and walked hundreds of miles to find safety. The United Nations believes that over 4.8 million people have left Syria as refugees. Where do they all go?

Over one million have fled to Europe, but the majority of these refugees are still in the Middle East. Most of these people end up in camps set up by foreign governments to hold the war-weary peoples until another country agrees to take them. But conditions in refugee camps are not great. The majority of these refugees are women and children who do not have enough food, clean water, warm clothes, or even in most cases are suffering from the loss of a parent, brother or sister, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Some are even alone, separated from their families and left to fend for themselves.

It's important to remember that a refugee is different from an immigrant. A refugee is forced to leave because they fear for their life, and an immigrant usually goes to another country for economic reasons or to be with family already there.

If you want to know more, you can check out these organizations dedicated to helping refugees.

World Vision Syrian Crisis

Refugees International

The White Helmets

Doctors without Borders

International Rescue Committee 

Remember: Knowledge is the Power that Conquers Fear!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Knowledge is Power Series On Immigration: Why is Illegal Immigration Sometimes Worth the Risk?

We have discussed what is meant by immigration and why you should not be afraid of immigrants. We've also discussed illegal immigration. However, those are only terms used to describe an action. The more important question is, "WHY".

Why do people risk jail, deportation (sending a foreigner back to their original country), separation from family and friends, and in some cases, their lives to enter a country illegally? There are as many answers to this question as there are people willing to take the risk. Yet, there are a few common factors, and they include the same things that your parents, your future self, and I feel are the necessities to life. 

        • Work
        • Shelter
        • Family
        • Safety
Work. Thousands of illegal immigrants enter the United States to find work--any work. They pick vegetables and fruits, clean houses and businesses, do construction, mow yards, take care of someone else's children, become maids, work in the clothing industry, and willingly do any job that will pay them a meager wage and not ask about their immigration status. It might surprise you to know that a large number of these workers don't want to stay here, they just want to make money to send home to support their families. They would probably like to be legal, but our system of immigration does not allow this except under certain circumstances.

Shelter. No one wants to be homeless, but millions in this world are homeless. In areas suffering economically, people can't either work to support themselves, or work for so little money they can't afford housing. They live on the street, in houses build with cardboard boxes, tin houses, tents, or whatever they can find to keep the rain out. They cross the border illegally on the hope that they can find a place to live for them and their families. Wouldn't you? 

Family. In many instances, a family member has already immigrated legally. His/her foot is in the door so to speak. The family can apply to join him/her. However, it can still take anywhere between one to 10 years. However, if the family member immigrated illegally, there is no foot in the door. There is no one to sponsor a legal immigration, and if the family wants to be together, they take the risk and cross the border illegally.

Safety. We hear a lot about our safety and the threat illegal immigration poses, but what about the immigrant's safety. In some countries, safety is an issue. War, crime, and violence tear families apart. Parents want their children to be safe, so they leave their country for a another one that looks safer than where they live. 

As I said, there are many reasons for crossing another country's border illegally. The ones listed are just a few. But there are other reasons people illegally enter another country, and those reasons do not include work, shelter, family, or safety. What are these reasons? Next week we'll discuss drugs, human trafficking, and terrorism.

Remember: Knowledge is the Power that Conquers Fear! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Kids: Knowledge is Power Series: Should You Be Afraid Of Immigrants, Part 2 Illegal Immigration

There is a tremendous amount of discussion going on today about illegal immigration, and it is easy to get confused and even worried. However, knowledge is power, and understanding the simple facts can dispel any fears of immigration--legal or illegal.

Simply put, illegal immigration occurs when someone violates a country's immigration laws, or enters another country without permission.

Every nation in the world has rules that define how people from other countries can enter their country. If you travel to a foreign country for vacation or to visit, you need a passport. A passport is a government document that certifies who you are and which country you are a citizen from. If you are planning on staying in the foreign country for a specific time period, you may need a Visa. A Visa is another government document from the country you are visiting that says you are allowed to enter, leave, or stay. 

Illegal immigration is when people plan on moving to another country, but do not have a passport or visa that allows them to do so, or that they have not applied to that country to become a citizen. This means they are an "undocumented" citizen.

A citizen, remember, is a person who is recognized by a nation as one of their people. Citizens can be native or natural. If you are born in that country, you are a native. If you go through the citizen application process that the country you want to live in creates, and pledge your allegiance to that country, you are a naturalized citizen. More than 2,000 immigrants become naturalized U.S. citizens each and every day.

As you know, breaking the law anywhere in the world can lead to imprisonment and/or fines. It is the same with illegal immigration. People who enter a country illegally can be jailed and then sent back to their home country. So why would anyone risk going to jail to cross a nation's borders without permission? Next week we will take a look at why people decide the risk is worth it.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Kids Knowledge is Power Series: Should You Be Afraid of Immigrants? Part 1

There has been a lot of talk in the news about immigration. Some people are loudly for it, and some are loudly against it.  The arguing back and forth is enough to make anyone shiver, but should you be afraid? The answer is"No" especially when you understand what immigration, and even emigration, is all about.

First, let's look at the definition of each of those terms. Immigration is when a person comes to a country that is not his/her own to live permanently. Emigration is when a person leaves his/her country to live permanently in a different one. So immigration is coming, and emigration is leaving.

Immigration is not new. In fact, we are all immigrants in one way or another, and it happens in every country throughout the world. Let's just look at America. 

Scientists believe that the first immigrants to this country crossed the Bering Land Bridge from northeastern Asia more than 13,000 years ago. Their immigration led to the Native American tribes. The next wave of immigration came during the Age of Exploration when Europeans started moving west for gold, land, freedom, and trade. Since that time, people from other countries have flocked to America looking for many of the same things, but mostly for freedom and a chance to live a peaceful life. So how many people born in a different country are actually in America?

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are over 80 million immigrants and their America born kids in United States. They make up about one-fourth of our population. Chances are you have classmates who were born here after their parents came from another country.

When you understand what immigration is, it becomes less scary and therefore no reason to be afraid. However, there is more to immigration that just looking at the definition or the numbers. Next week, we will look at the difference between illegal immigration and legal immigration.

"You are our future, and knowledge give you the power to make good decisions."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

You Have a Right to an Education, So Use It!

One of my 2017 Bill of Children's Rights, is your right to an education. Now I know for some of you the idea of school makes you roll your eyes and sigh. However, for 101 million children, according to UNICEF, the ability to go to school is denied. 

For them there are no books, no teachers, no homework, and no education. They will not be able to read or write, and for a large number they will not be able to even add or subtract simple equations. There are many reasons they are denied an education. For some, there are no schools. For others, school is a luxury that only a minority can afford. For even more however, they are denied school because they are girls, or their culture is different that the government's, or the government just does not have enough money to provide all their citizens with an education.

These kids are destined to become part of the growing illiterate (not able to read or write) adult population of almost 760 million adults who do not have the means to make themselves a better life. That is not what I want for you!

Think about the world today. Can you imagine what it would be like if you could not read or write? How would you understand the rules to your favorite video game? How would you build that Lego village you begged your parents to get you? How could you get lost in the latest Rick Riordan series? How would you write that story that only you can tell? Better yet, how would you text or email?

For the majority of Americans, school is required. However that does not mean they get the education they need. Some school districts cannot afford books, so students have to share. Some cannot afford enough teachers, so their classrooms are crowded, which means those who need extra help to succeed don't get it. So how can you get the most out of your education?

  1. Pay attention in class. If your mind tends to wander, try taking notes. Sometimes just jotting down a thought or two will keep your brain in the moment.
  2. Ask questions. If you don't understand the class discussion or the assignment, speak up. Ask the teacher to explain it again. If that is too embarrassing, ask her after class.
  3. Do your homework when you get home. I know, you would rather have time to watch TV, play a game, or visit with friends. But if you grab a quick snack then crack the books, you'll find that your homework goes much faster than it does after dinner or before bed.
  4. Read, read, read. This is probably the most important thing you can do all by yourself to expand your education. Reading helps your grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, and enjoyment.
  5. Finally, GO TO SCHOOL! It's your job right now. Take advantage of it. At least you are not home cleaning your room--right?

Saturday, December 17, 2016


by Timon Studler/

I was hoping 2016 was a better year for you, but it seems that very little progress has been made to help children move out of poverty and hunger, grow up in peace, and receive an education. 

As we enter 2017, this world is faced with a challenge just to get food into every child's belly. In the world, one in every eight kids go to bed hungry. In addition, over 20,000 kids die each and every day, and one in five die before they reach five years of age. That is unacceptable! The world grows enough food to feed over 10 billion people, but it cannot seem to feed the 795 million people who are dying of starvation. Why? Well maybe it has something to do with greed and war. After all there are more than 230 million kids living in war torn countries. Then there is the matter of education.  For 57 million kids, there is no education--no school--no teachers--no knowledge. So here is my 2017 Children's Bill of Rights.  

  1. Every child has the right to food.
  2. Every child has the right to climb out of poverty.
  3. Every child has the right to health care.
  4. Every child has the right to play without fearing for their life.
  5. Every child has the right to go to school.
  6. Every child has the right to an education.
  7. Every child has the right to shelter.
  8. Every child has a right to live in peace.
  9. Every child has the right to grow up.
  10. Every child has the right to dream and to expect those dreams to come true.
  11. Every child has the right to privacy.
  12. Every child has the right to be loved.

What can you do to help yourself? To help another child? Or, to educate your parents so that they reach out and help a child in need? Let's make 2017 a better year and give children the rights they deserve!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Kids: Racism or Prejudice? What's the Difference?

What is the difference between racism and prejudice? Are they the same? Do you really know? Several recent experiences I've had at my local school have led me to believe there that some kids are confused by both terms. Why?  

Let's consider two things that happened in the last few weeks. A 5th grade student recently told a peer, "That's racism, don't say that," when all the other kid did was say he didn't want the poster board they were working on to be black. He wanted green. Another incident involved a kindergartner who sat at the middle grade lunch table by mistake. A much older peer told her to move that 8th graders were prejudice against "babies". 

Now both of these situations are not the norm for this school. The student population comes from a diverse background, religions, countries, and cultures. But it made me wonder how many of you actually understand the difference even though the majority of adults think the words are synonymous--and they kind of are. Confused? Maybe this will help.

Racism is simply the belief that the color of a kid's skin or where he/she came from makes him or her less of a person than you. Second, prejudice is having an opinion about someone or something before you even know them. 

So basically, if you don't like all Martians just because they came from Mars, you are practicing racism. But if you refused to sit next to a new student just because she has the physical characteristics of a Martian, you are being prejudice.

Finally, don't you think the world would be a more peaceful place if everyone took racism and prejudice out of their vocabulary and out of their minds? I do.