Refugee mother gives Waltons unique perspective


Grace Kirtley

Senior Malayka Walton and sophomore Layla Walton share a unique perspective due to their mother’s experience of being a refugee.

Grace Kirtley and Sarah Locke

Since 1975, more than 3 million refugees have arrived in the United States (U.S.), according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Until recent years, the U.S. was known as the world’s top country for refugee admissions. 

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “refugees are migrants who are able to demonstrate that they have been persecuted, or have reason to fear persecution, on the basis of one of five ‘protected grounds:’ race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”

Refugee admission into the U.S. may seem like a distant or vague issue for most Lafayette High School (LHS) students; perhaps it’s just a headline glanced at over a parent’s shoulder or a topic overheard during a presidential debate. However, this is not the case for senior Malayka Walton and sophomore Layla Walton. 

“It’s an issue really close to me because my mom was an immigrant when she came to the U.S. [at the age of] 18,” Malayka said. “She was isolated, and it was really hard for her.”

Shamima Walton moved from Mozambique to Malawi when her father did not want to work for the government due to differences in ideals.

“There was the communist revolution, and her family was basically forced out because my grandpa refused to work for the state,” Malayka said. “They lived in a refugee camp in Zambia and then applied for refugee-hood in a bunch of different European places.”

Following this, their mother and her family were accepted to refugee-hood for the United States; however, the journey was not without difficulty.

“[I] remember she was telling me that she was going across a border, and there were guards everywhere. One of them saw her, but he was drunk so they were able to get past him. He was trying to tell everyone that they were there, but he was drunk so no one believed him [and they got through],” Layla said.

Although the daughters find that people look down on refugees, both agree that being the children of a refugee gives them a unique perspective.

“They’re not people to be looked down upon or pitied. [My mom’s] really brave and outgoing,” Layla said.

Once getting accepted, the refugees often face challenges becoming a part of society.

“Refugees have a really unique experience because, first of all, it’s hard to get accepted here socially, but also being economically integrated,” Malayka said. “My grandfather, when he lived in Cleuiman, Mozambique, was the best engineer that was there, and when he came here, they decided that his education, since it was in Africa, didn’t count.”

Overall, the girls want people to be more educated and sympathetic towards refugees.

“It’s hard being a refugee, so anything you can do to be a friend helps,” Malayka said.