Opinion | America Is Failing Refugees, and Itself

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Video by Ken Burns

Mr. Burns is a documentary filmmaker who has been making films about American history for nearly 40 years.

For his 1985 documentary about the Statue of Liberty, the filmmaker Ken Burns interviewed two Jewish boys sitting on a bench in New York City. They were twins who had fled Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, with their father. Like generations of refugees before them and generations since, they had arrived in the United States hoping for a better life.

One of those boys, Alexander Vindman, would grow up to become a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army and director for European and Russian affairs for the National Security Council. He was also a key witness at the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump. His brother, Yevgeny, would become a colonel in the Army and serve as deputy legal adviser for the National Security Council.

In recent months, as the Vindmans’ homeland has come under siege by Russian forces, Mr. Burns reunited with the brothers to make the Opinion Video above. In this short film, the Vindmans argue that the refugee crises in Ukraine and elsewhere demand a much stronger response from the Biden administration, including not just fully restoring a refugee system gutted by the Trump administration but expanding it further.

The nation’s policies, they contend, are not living up to its ideals.

Ken Burns (@KenBurns) has been making films about American history for nearly 40 years. This video was produced by UNUM, which explores the intersection of history and current events.

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