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Refugees and Immigrant Life in America for Viet and Vargas

The present essay aims to shed light on the refugees and immigrant lives of non-U.S. citizens living in America. It focuses on readings from “On Being a Refugee, an American—a Human Being” by Thanh Nguyen and “Outlaw: My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” by Antonio Vargas. The two authors both migrated to America at young ages share their experiences. The essay will discuss the narrator’s voice used to address arguments about immigration, aspects of tone, irony, diction, persona, and mood used by the authors. Further discussions on the topics stated above will follow in the paragraphs below.

Viet uses his narrator’s voice to defend the presence of refugees in American society. He counteracts this by stating that they came to America due to the war in their countries, and it was not entirely out of their own volition. He emphasizes that “the refugees embody fear, failure, and flight.” (Viet, 1). Vargas also uses his narrator’s voice to explain the strictness of the American society to its refugees. He gave a scenario where he was applying for a driver’s permit and got rejected due to a fake green card. He also further explained how hard it was for him to secure a good job as he had counterfeit credentials and was always living in fear of being exposed as an undocumented immigrant. Vargas further explained how refugees are forced to take low-income jobs to conceal their identity (Antonio, 3). They both state their achievements, Viet stating how he won the Pulitzer Prize and having a brother that attended Harvard. Vargas also noted how he achieved considerable professional success and added that he worked The Huffington Post. They both address that refugees do not serve as an economic threat to American society but also help improve the country’s economy.

Both Viet and Vargas use a sympathizing tone when addressing their views on immigration in America. They both emphasize that refugees did not migrate to America willingly but under forced circumstances. Viet stated that “In the beginning, the American society banned Chinese immigrants,” arguing that the Chinese were an economic, moral, sexual, and hygienic threat to white Americans. The authors depict that refugees are vulnerable to prejudice with a lack of concrete evidence to back up their opinions. They share that refugees should be treated fairly, just as an ordinary American citizen would.

However, it is ironic that as much as both Viet and Vargas have clearly stated how unfairly they have been treated in America, they still insist on securing permanent residency. After all the obstacles they have encountered as undocumented immigrants in the United States of America, they are still adamant in convincing the American government to give them a chance. They counter this by saying that they have both stayed for an extended period in America and see no use in going back to a country they can barely remember.

“On being a Refugee, an American—a Human Being” by Thanh Nguyen and “Outlaw: My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” by Antonio Vargas both shed light on what obstacles refugees encounter. Melancholy is expressed between the two. They are melancholic because although they have lived in America for all those years, they still live in fear of being exposed. Vargas showed it when he refused an all-expenses-paid trip to Switzerland or when he adamantly refused for years to commit to a long-term relationship due to the fear of being exposed (Antonio, 10). However, Vargas came out and revealed his identity, still unsure of what kind of implications he would face. Still, he finally did it after long years of camouflaging himself as an American citizen.

Nguyen and Vargas are both victims of being refugees in America. They both have different case scenarios but connect on the same level in their experiences. Vargas and Nguyen depict a victimized persona in their story. They have first-hand experiences with the prejudice that comes with the refugee title. They have effectively documented their hardships as undocumented immigrants in America in hopes of the American government being lenient on them and treating them just as they would ordinary American citizens.

In conclusion, both Vargas and Nguyen were refugees in America from a tender age, and it was not by choice but rather due to unavoidable reasons. They both depict how hard it was for an undocumented immigrant to live in America. Vargas demonstrated the loopholes most immigrants make to remain undetected by the American federation. Nguyen vindicates pro-refugee sentiment, persuading readers to agree with him as he expresses his side of the story. In summary, both authors portray the government’s attitude towards the refugees as prejudiced and subtly nub the government to be more lenient towards their refugees.

Works Cited

“Rhetorical Analysis | Department of English.” Https://English.Umd.Edu/, Accessed 14 Mar. 2022.

Nguyen, Viet Thanh. “Viet Thanh Nguyen on Being a Refugee, an American — and a Human Being.” Financial Times, 3 Feb. 2017,

Vargas, Jose Antonio. “My life as an undocumented immigrant.” New York Times Magazine 22 (2011): 2011.


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