Hoping for an Airport Reunion: One Refugee Family’s Story


In which John goes to the airport–not, for once, to fly somewhere, but in hopes of seeing a family of Burmese refugees reunited. Thanks to Saw Kyar Aye and Thet Thet for sharing their story with me and for inviting me to the airport on that fateful day. SOURCES BELOW!

Sponsor our 10k run here: https://www.gofundme.com/100Days10K All proceeds go to Exodus Refugee International, a local nonprofit working with refugees resettled in Indianapolis: https://exodusrefugee.org/


Forced labor remains a huge problem in Burma, also known as Myanmar, and those conscripted by the army into labor are often beaten and sometimes executed for desertion (or just for being injured): http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2082814,00.html

Refugee resettlement does not increase crime rates in the United States. This study explored the relationship between crime in communities and refugee populations, finding an association (but not causation!!!!) between refugee resettlement and lower crime rates: http://www.renewoureconomy.org/research/is-there-a-link-between-refugees-and-u-s-crime-rates/

In general, immigrant populations commit crimes at a lower rate than native born populations in the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_and_crime#United_States and also https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mythical-connection-between-immigrants-and-crime-1436916798

Then there is the question of whether immigration reduces wages. This is VERY HOTLY CONTESTED, so I’m going to try to be careful here. The best/most readable overview I’ve found is here: http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21688938-europes-new-arrivals-will-probably-dent-public-finances-not-wages-good-or but it focuses on the effect of refugee populations on European economies. Because refugees entering the United States are more thoroughly vetted and also more likely to be highly educated, in the U.S. refugees are less likely to decrease wages–i.e., they almost certainly don’t. More info here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/us/immigrants-arent-taking-americans-jobs-new-study-finds.html

Then there’s the question of whether a large influx of immigrants affect wages or unemployment. That’s not super relevant to the U.S. right now, because we have relatively few refugee resettlements here, but it’s an interesting side note. The WSJ has a good overview of the cloudiness here: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/06/01/does-immigration-suppress-wages-its-not-so-simple/ The Brookings Institute claims that “on average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans.” https://www.brookings.edu/blog/jobs/2012/05/04/what-immigration-means-for-u-s-employment-and-wages/ Other studies have found that large influxes of immigrants do depress wages for some low-skilled workers: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/gborjas/publications/popular/NR2016.pdf And then of course there are studies that show the problem with the studies that show the problem with the other studies. It’s complicated. Some day I’d like to make a video about the incredibly complex relationship between immigration and wages/unemployment/economic growth, but not today.

For those looking to learn more about the current political situation in Myanmar, here’s a more recent, deeply disturbing story about forced labor of the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-forcedlabour-idUSKCN0PC2L720150702 To be clear, the family I discuss in this video is not Rohingya; most Rohingya are Muslims. Saw Kyar Aye and his family are Christians of Chin ethnicity. But Chin people have frequently been targets of forced labor initiatives.

Huge thank you to Sara Hindi and everyone at Exodus Refugee International for making this video possible. Thanks also to Mark Olsen for his videography and editing genius. Any mistakes are mine alone.

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31 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing individual stories of complex situations. DFTBA.

  2. Calling all nerdfighters to the newest crash course video! The comments have gotten pretty toxic and some + commenters could be great for changing the tide of the conversation. Thanks!

  3. Maliha Zia says:

    reminded me of the time when my family reunited with our dad after 2 years. Now after living here in Sweden for a few years I just realized how many other families like mine are out there, waiting to be reunited with their family members abroad.

  4. So much love for this video <3

  5. Oh this made me cry.

  6. John, you know there are two refugee resettlement organizations in Indy, right? Exodus and Catholic Charities.

  7. CodexPotter says:

    who's cutting onions? insert happy tears

  8. AB says:

    How many people can you save?People suffer due to their ancestors's weakness and poor choices.

  9. John you should read the Kite runner

  10. Wayward Mind says:

    Oh my god. John said "in the video info below" and not "links in the doobly-doo." Is this the End of All Things? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!

  11. tzahry says:

    and that's how you lose credit as non political and objective. Very disappointing to see such unbalanced and awfully biased advertisement – I hope it was worth the perks you were offered for it.

  12. Seems like propaganda but okay. The law is more important than some individuals outside our nation. Not our problem.

  13. Krist Kamal says:

    I came to America as a refugee back in 2008, in the midst of great recession. My perception of American values and American geneoracity was proven right at that time. Now, I'm a naturalized American citizen but I somehow feel ashamed to brag about my country. I feel like our leaders have prioritized party politics over American values. Humanity should transcend politics. Refugee issues is a humanitarian crisis caused by political conflicts. Syrian refugees are ISIS victims not ISIS members. I still believe in this country and it's people (myself included) because for every Donald Trump there's another Americans like John Green.

  14. This was incredible. i wish them all the best.

  15. Joseph Rich says:

    I like to flail my hands to get more views, keep them entertained as well.

  16. aaaand I'm crying. Who the heck looks at that family and thinks 'danger'.

  17. Cathryn Ross says:


  18. Charlie Troy says:

    This made me cry.

  19. How can anyone see this as bad?

  20. therealpixie says:

    That kid was like, "Put me down! I never saw you in my life. Mom!"

  21. Pianokid says:

    One thing, not a ban, a moratorium

  22. BirdGirlSami says:

    I'm not crying you're crying

  23. supaguhh says:

    I cried after watching this. I love this and every other video that you have made like this! I love that you remind us, no matter where we're from, and no matter the religion, we are just people living life, laughing hard, and loving harder. Thank you <3

  24. xapemanx says:

    feels good when refugee "children" seeking asylum turn out to be adult males with no skills in their mid to late 20's

  25. My eyes are sweating super hard

  26. What, no "We must take as much as are willing to come", no "They are human being, and its our duty to help them"? You want a discussion, instead of demanding that everyone do exactly what your leftists sensibilities tell you they should?
    I'd say that the ban is having a great effect then. Maybe if you get off your high horse, the right will get off theirs, and you americans can save your dumb, powerful country.

  27. dcseain says:

    Thank you for this. I've worked with, went to school with, and/or am friends with refugees from, that I know of, El Salvador, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sudan, Nicaragua, Chile, and Syria. I've heard them tell of what they fled, more horrors they've lived through than I like to think about, and what they've had to leave behind, from one woman's cat to someone else's volcanic corn-grinding stone. All are glad to be here, safe. More glad, and grateful, than most of us know.

  28. Lox World says:

    One day love will conquer the fear hammered into the minds of Americans. Thanks for telling this family's story John.

  29. Thanks for this. I cried.

  30. vlogbrothers says:

    Your scavenger hunt clue this week: Our favorite song by the artist formerly known as my sleeping Mary by your whispering brook. -John

    p.s. If you don't know what's going on, an EXTREMELY complicated nerdfighter scavenger hunt has been going on for several weeks. What is happening? To what is it leading? If you want to fall very, very far down the rabbit hole, join the nerdfighter discord: https://discord.gg/r7xjd

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