– By Nathanie Y. Yaskey

We are all waiting for the New York City Times Square ball drop, especially this year. To put one of the most challenging years in history to bed and with just 20 days before a more welcoming administration, we look for a year more compassionate for our immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Other than your birthday, New Year’s Day is one of the most celebrated days of the year.

According to Business Insider, a sampling of immigration data shows that over 11,000 of the nearly 80,000 people admitted into the USA list January 1st as their birthday. This is especially so with our Somalian and Ethiopian sisters and brothers. So why is this? The answer is both simple and complex, depending on whose story it is. The main reason is that these refugees fled from nations that honor birth dates differently than we do. As they fled their homes with their families, leaving everything they knew in search of freedom and acceptance in a foreign land, important documentation was left behind as well. Often access to government documentation regarding birthdays is not always easy to find.

When these refugees come to the United States seeking asylum, they are often advised to list January 1st as their date of birth, as they have no formal birth records. Marilu Cabrera, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notes, “[for those cases] the January 1 birth date is the common birth date that we assign.” Among newcomers, the January 1st birthday is so common that at the stroke of midnight, along with Happy New Year, immigrant children also wish their parents Happy Birthday.

We honor and celebrate every single immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker, and newcomer who celebrates their special day on January 1, 2021. We thank you for blessing us with your unique cultures, special traditions, and profound stories of survival and hope. Happy Birthday 2021!