Dear Refugee / Immigrant / Foreign National and Those Who Feel Unwelcome
February 1, 2017
Let me start off my saying that I never intended my blog to be a political one. Like many, my political side usually comes to life around the Presidential primaries, and slowly diminishes after election day. But, this hasn’t been a normal time, nor is our President a normal president. Many people see this as a good thing— his take charge attitude is what got him into office and have his supporters celebrating his “accomplished” first week. I am not one of those people. Each Executive Order he signed left me with a feeling of dread and shame for our country. I think I said, “This is bad…” at least once a day every day last week.
His first week in office culminated in an executive order that has been shrouded in controversy, hurt, and anger. The Muslim Ban. Call it what you will; or as its’ being framed as a “protection” from terrorists (although many experts are saying this kind of ban can promote terrorism, not prevent it). But, when the President cherry-picks who he deems dangerous (funny how not a single country where he has hotels or business opportunities, like Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates made the list), and without properly vetting or putting forth protocols, things can get messy.
Like many, I was outraged and heartbroken over these new travel restrictions for foreign nationals. I was once again feeling helpless against this administration and looking for a way to show support, especially to those most affected by it. My incredible sister-in-law works with International Students at a university. Some of these students are feeling vulnerable, scared, and unwelcome in our country. And who could blame them? My sister-in-law and I thought that as a way to provide comfort for these students, I could send them a letter expressing my anger at this ban and letting the students know that they're valued and welcome. I encouraged my friends to do the same.
This is what my letter says:
I’m writing to you at a very difficult and confusing time in our country. Like many of my fellow Americans, I was heartbroken and angry over the new travel restrictions that were put in place last week. Even if your home country was not one of the ones on the list, I can only imagine the confusion, hurt, and rejection you must be feeling. I feel it for you. America’s entire existence was based on immigrants who felt they couldn’t freely practice their religion, so they fled to new lands. Hence, the whole “separation from church and state.” America has thrived because of immigrants who have wanted to create their own “American Dream.” We have always accepted everyone with open arms. This is the land of opportunity, the home of the free and the brave… or so they say.
When you made the decision to study in America, you showed extreme bravery to leave the life you know for a potentially better opportunity. I don’t even know you and I’m in awe of your courage. I’m sorry if this new executive order has left you feeling like you’re unwelcome or unworthy of America. That is not the country I know and love. I hope in writing this letter you can at least feel some comfort in knowing not everyone feels what the ban implies. Most don’t. I hope you can find some comfort that people are speaking out, writing to our congressmen and women, protesting at airports (I live in Los Angeles, and I assure you Angelenos do everything they can to avoid LAX, so you can see how much this means!). I’ve been touched by the lawyers going to airports to work Pro Bono for the ones who were so unfortunately detained this past weekend. I hope you find comfort in that, as well.
One of our Nation’s Founding Fathers was an immigrant who shaped our modern government. He’s been mentioned a lot lately and there’s a pretty popular musical about him. I’m talking about Alexander Hamilton… you may have heard of him. One of my favorite quotes from the musical is:
“America, you great unfinished symphony,
you sent for me
You let me make a difference
A place where even orphan immigrants
Can leave their fingerprints and rise up”
That is the America I know and am proud of.
I hope this letter has left you with a modicum of comfort. We will continue to rise up for you.
If you’re interested in writing your own letter to an International Student, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org