OPINION: Why I Celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month

OPINION: Why I Celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month

It’s sadly ironic that while communities across the country celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month in June, we are simultaneously witnessing cruelty toward immigrants at the highest levels of our government. The Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration is resulting in thousands of children being forcibly separated from their parents at the border.

And now, even conservatives like Former First Lady Laura Bush are taking notice and speaking out. In a scathing op-ed published in The Washington Post on June 18, she calls the policy cruel, saying, “[o]ur government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities.” She continues, “I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

I believe our policies are being defined by people who have never met a Dreamer, have never known an immigrant, have never seen the struggle firsthand. As a daughter of immigrant parents who fled their country for safety here in America, it pains me to see this country I love treating those who wish to seek a better life here in such an inhumane manner.

My parents were refugees who came here with nothing. Growing up, I served as their interpreter at times, and over the years I saw them scale their business up and down while facing racism and injustice. Today, they own one of the oldest restaurants in their neighborhood in Minneapolis, and they have become the backbone for the culture of that community. Through their journey of chasing the American dream, I was able to find my passion for helping people who have similar disadvantages to receive the same fair shot as anyone else at chasing their dreams. I saw the value in building communities and the impact a strong community has on all its residents.

The United States is a place that saved my family. It gave my parents the opportunity to build a business, which has led to their kids getting college degrees and getting jobs, paying taxes, supporting schools, building communities and being positively contributing members of society. It was through my family and the kindness of some very generous strangers that we are here now contributing to this country.

Today, I believe our lawmakers should be alongside ICE when a child is separated from their parents, so they can see and feel the incredible damage that it causes. Historically, our nation’s capacity for empathy has made it the great country it is. It resulted in generations of people living out the American dream and building something from nothing, because they were given an opportunity.

The recent crisis at the border involving the family separation policy should serve as a stark reminder to lawmakers that we have a broken immigration system, and it is the job of Congress to impose legislative solutions. During a time when we should be welcoming immigrants and celebrating their contributions, it is a terrible irony that our broken system has allowed for the imprisonment of immigrant children.

As our nation’s lawmakers move through legislative processes this month, it’s vitally important that Arizona’s Congressional representatives keep in mind all the contributions that immigrants have made, and continue to make, to our state. Any policies limiting legal immigration levels would be disastrous; we need to be welcoming to those who wish to contribute to our local economies. I urge you to make your voices heard and share your personal stories using #CelebrateImmigrants on social media and by writing or calling your Congressional representatives today.


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