That is the word I think of when I envision my parents stepping onto American soil, fresh from the Philippines. They never asked to exchange one way of life for another or to leave a place that was comfortable. Instead, they chose to leave a familiar place in order to create opportunity and make something better for their children. I can’t imagine the kind of bravery and strength that took, but I’m all the more grateful for it.
I am a collection of my parents and grandparents’ experiences: their hopes, their dreams, their struggles. The weight of their sacrifices and the enormity of their fears rests on my shoulders. It pushes me, it motivates me to become something they could be proud of. It challenges me to fulfill their version of what the “American dream” is.
When my parents were born, they never asked to be immigrants, but they accepted the challenge in order to “make gold.” And they have.
My extended family is part of the 42.4 million immigrants who live in the United States. All come to this country with the same ambition: to create a life that is simply better than the one before.
With this ambition, immigrants flourish. Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian refugee; the founder of Chobani yogurt, Hamdi Ulukaya is an immigrant; and let’s not forget Madeleine Albright, Joseph Pulitzer, and Albert Einstein.
What Donald Trump fails to realize in his executive order on immigration is that America is a beautiful melting pot of many different colors, shapes, and sizes. As Jimmy Carter once said: “We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
Donald Trump fails to acknowledge that his order is repeating a dangerous pattern of history all too familiar in a country riddled by prejudices. There was the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers; the Immigration Act of 1924, which severely restricted the immigration of Africans and banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians; and the Japanese internment during World War II, which confined Japanese-Americans into internment camps.
The Japanese internment is a time in our history that Americans don’t acknowledge because it is hard to admit that a country of “liberty and justice” failed its own people. America let their discrimination and their ignorance get the best of them. With Trump’s latest policies, we are proving that we cannot learn from history, repeating a cycle so dangerous that the death count in Syria keeps rising — Currently 450,000 people are dead, with over 50,000 children lost.
Trump’s immigration ban is prejudiced, because if he were truly looking at the facts, he would see that Islamic terrorism makes up one-third of one percent of all murders in the United States. The Washington Post reported there was a higher chance of becoming crushed by furniture than being killed by a terrorist.
I know with my own parents that when immigrants are given the opportunity to start over, they give back to the country tenfold. My mom and dad serve the sick in hospitals and community centers as a respective nurse and doctor. My father proudly waves his flags on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and I wake up every day, motivated to “make the gold” my parents set out for me when they stepped onto that American soil.
Immigrants leave more of an impact on our country than anyone expects them to. As Lin-Manuel Miranda proved in his musical, “Hamilton,” Alexander Hamilton, a native of the Carribean, built our whole financial system, creating a prosperity and wealth all Americans benefit off of.
With Trump’s order, I cry for my beautiful, Muslim roommate who worries about re-entering the country; my immigrant family, the affected refugees. I weep for America, because we have failed to learn that prejudice and exclusion gets us nowhere; only love moves us forward.
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