Today's post comes from Amy Sitze. It is a reminder of the good a single individual can do in the face of our president's recent executive order. This is Amy and her grandma, who came to the U.S. in 1951 with her grandpa. Immigrants are not to be feared—after all, we are them and they are us.
As part of my volunteer job as an aide at evening English classes for adult immigrants and refugees, I lead small-group discussions so students can practice their English conversation skills. We talk about various topics, including current events, so I had the opportunity to see the rhetoric leading up to the election through their eyes.
When they watched the news, they saw crowds of white Americans cheering as Donald Trump cast Muslims as terrorists and Mexicans as rapists. Fadumo*, a Somali refugee who recently became an American citizen, told me that her American-born 5-year-old daughter had come home from school crying because the other kids told her she’d be “sent back to Somalia.” Seeing the fear in her eyes, I asked her, “Fadumo, do you worry about that?” She smiled uncertainly and said, “So-so.”
Manuel, an immigrant from Mexico, said that when he was walking down the street or waiting in line at the grocery store, he looked at the strangers around him and wondered how many people thought he was a criminal. He hadn’t felt that way before Trump’s candidacy, he said. He even began standing on the bus instead of taking an open seat next to a woman sitting alone, worried that he’d frighten her.
In the face of the even more profound fear that’s settled in my students’ bones after the election, I feel my role has expanded from teaching verb tenses to showing them a more welcoming side of America. As part of My 100 Days, I'm renewing and expanding my commitment to immigrants, showing them at every opportunity that they are welcome—that they, we, us—are America.
“Fadumo, no one can deport your family,” I tell her firmly. “You are an American.” I tell Manuel that I truly believe he and other immigrants are making this country better and stronger--and my friends, my family, and my co-workers feel the same way. So do millions of Americans who look at him not as a criminal, but as a contributor.
I’m just one voice my students are hearing, and I wonder if it’s enough—but I know that it’s something.
Make a pledge to do good.
*names/details changed for privacy
There are many opportunities to volunteer teaching English, and no experience is necessary—just the willingness to commit to a regular schedule as an aide, a classroom teacher, or a one-on-one tutor. The Minnesota Literacy Council provides training and connects volunteers with opportunities in various locations.
P.S. from Adam: Today I gave to the ACLU, who is crushing it on the immigration issue. I also called my senator, which is a first for me.