“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door”
Emma Lazarus’ famous words on the Statute of Liberty resonate most today and I make this request to you, our 45th President on President’s Day.
As an immigrant, now an immigration attorney, immigrants of different colors and religions have gone through this country’s golden door- its constitutionally granted liberties and freedom, its respect for individual freedom, that allows one to work unfettered and to enjoy the results of that hard work. This has been the wind beneath our wings. We immigrants are the wind, we are the change. In solidarity with all the immigrants, we believe in our ability to bring about change, peacefully, exercising our constitutionally protected rights – to speak up and be heard. And it is in this spirit, I address you today.
In a recent press conference, you announced that your team and the attorneys are looking through what the court at the 9th circuit said and that we would have a redraft of the “ban” –a new executive order. Mr. President, with all due respect, even if you were to cleverly draft an order that picks on a group identified by their religion- it cannot be fair, if it picks on a few.
Why don’t you vet people from all countries…we agree that the bad people shouldn’t be allowed to come in and we agree that it is your responsibility to keep us safe- but how about vetting everyone. Color, race or religion cannot make a person bad. A Muslim is not a terrorist, Hispanics are not illegal, and a Mexican American is not a drug dealer. Vet all. Be tough with all. Be fair to all. Take equal care to protect us from the bad, the violent people within the United States. Protect us from the ones that wear pepe the frog, protect us from the ones that think that this is their country because of their color and that they have a right to be called American and the others Black, Mexican, Muslim or Brown. Please protect us from the ones that under the garb of caring, create fear of their fellow citizen, protect us from those that call America their country and forget that their country includes people who look different from them.
I break here for an anecdote. A few weeks back my boys, born here in Plano Texas – who live and breathe basketball, were playing a game at PSA and after the game, had a court side discussion with a referee. An onlooking young adult, heckled my son jeering and said to him-“go blow yourself up”. A racial slur- two problem with it- one that it assumed that my son, a Sikh boy was Muslim and that Muslims deserve this misguided understanding about them- a perfect example of racism as well as ignorance. But let me tell you, a young adult, like the misguided boy on the basketball court, is growing up not only thinking but voicing the disdain and the ignorance. Is this the future that our American born kids will deal with and stand up to? They stood up to it. As did their blond-haired friend, who did not rest till he shamed the young adult and the parent supporting the errant behavior. What disturbed me was a comment made by an adult listening in- who said, that the boy could say whatever he wanted to, as it was their country. Protect me Mr. President from this person and the ones that he influences- since that is a toxic thought that has become acceptable to verbalize. I ask that parent and the adult who spoke, to tell me which one is my country??! Or my American born son’s country?
I follow the law, support the law, decipher the law, make sure that the ones I represent exercise good faith to follow the law, the regulations, the statutes, the memorandums and the case precedents as they seek their goals in this country. I ask you to protect me and mine, my immigrant communities- protect them from those who you have unleashed, those that create distrust and look at race and religion to decide whether they belong to the United States or not.
On January 25th 2017, your order enforcing safety in the interior of the United States is written for protecting us and that with one order, our ability to go on with it life unfettered was destroyed. Your agents are now ordered to arrest anyone who has criminal history and is undocumented. But please do tell us how will they enforce this order? Yes right, they will look at a brown person, at the spur of the moment decide that that person could be both undocumented and a criminal and ask for their immigration information. Mr. President, besides creating fear amongst those undocumented who are not criminals and not your stated enforcement priority for deportation, this policy will harass all.. With a stroke of a pen- you created another class of citizens within our great country- an isolated immigrant.
Please protect us from the executive order, now restrained by the Federal District Court in Seattle and the 9th circuit, that promises to save us from the poor wretched masses, who are coming in fleeing persecution. Do you really think that the people who are waiting in camps for years on end, in squalid conditions, who patiently wait their turn in line to go through the vetting process are the ones you will save us from? These, the homeless, tempest, tossed? Protect us please from the thought process that creates this fear. We fear what we don’t know and cannot understand.
When we have, refugees lining up, that’s not a statement of our stupidity but our generosity and kindness. Creating and treating any religion or race or nation with disdain will not result in providing safety- you are creating disgruntlement. Protecting the US worker and insisting on keeping jobs here will make businesses go abroad or close. Closing the borders to workers will result in a claustrophobic economy stifled by government interference which decides who can be here. Protection and paucity without economic analysis spells doom and not abundance.
Let us ponder our history- President Obama in his speech talking about Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013.
“Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else. Somebody brought you. The Irish who left behind a land of famine. The Germans who fled persecution. The Scandinavians who arrived eager to pioneer out west. The Polish. The Russians. The Italians. The Chinese. The Japanese. The West Indians. The huddled masses who came through Ellis Island on one coast and Angel Island on the other. All those folks, before they were “us,” they were “them.” And when each new wave of immigrants arrived, they faced resistance from those who were already here. They faced hardship. They faced racism. They faced ridicule. But over time, as they went about their daily lives, as they earned a living, as they raised a family, as they built a community, as their kids went to school here, they did their part to build a nation. They all came here knowing that what makes somebody an American is not just blood or birth, but allegiance to our founding principles and the faith in the idea that anyone from anywhere can write the next great chapter of our story”.
Let us look at your orders as somewhat misunderstanding, of our concerns. Even if people fear, it is you who can tell them and assure them that there is nothing to fear. None of the people from the list of countries banned have entered the country and done any harm. Tell your advisors, your constituents that you are in charge and that you believe that America is greater than the sum of all its fears and that you will ensure the security by following the policy of strict background checks and vetting. But once here, each one will be welcomed and will assimilate in the system, as did the Germans, the Polish and the Russians.
Protect the people please from deportation- Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a mother of two US Citizen children faithfully and diligently checked in with ICE since 2008 and was detained and deported during her eighth visit. In another instance, Daniel Ramirez Medina in Seattle who has been allowed to stay in the country under the Obama administration’s 2012 “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program was detained. Mr. President, protect our dreamers, they did no harm. They were brought in when little, and had no decision-making prowess at the time they came with their parents-protect them from being sent to a country where they have never lived. They are as American as you are. Protect the woman, in El Paso who had been driven to the courthouse by a victim’s advocate from the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse where she had been living and was detained by ICE at the court house after her protective order hearing.
Mr. President, the immigrants are this country’s wind beneath the wings- the hands that toil the kitchens, innovate in the technology world, research to give USA an edge, and teach our next generation in schools and colleges.
These- the people of the United States made you our 45th– please protect us all!