With the recent news that the Supreme Court has upheld the third iteration of Trump’s travel ban, it seems pertinent to see the effect this administration has had on immigrant communities so far.
It was a little over 12 months ago that we were preparing for the 2016 Presidential election, and at that time Life in the Bay talked to some temporary visitors, expats, and immigrants to get their thoughts on the proceedings as an outsider. You can read what they had to say here.
Now that Donald Trump has been in office for almost a year, we thought we’d look back on 2017, the good, bad, and ugly, for the immigrant, expat and refugee communities of the Bay Area and across the states.
Things began in dramatic fashion, with the sudden signing of an Executive Order that banned entry to the United States for those of certain nationalities. This caused a wave of protests and walkouts, including at Google and large-scale demonstrations at SFO only 9 days after Trump’s inauguration. There was a huge women’s march across the states as communities came together to voice their concern. The year continued in much the same vein. More protests followed in June at SFO against the travel ban, and again in the city in September to protect the rights of the Dreamers (or DACA recipients).
There is no doubt this has been a scary, stressful and apprehensive time for many immigrant and refugee communities, across the country, and things are still far from resolved. But here at Life in the Bay, and across America, people are not ready to be cowed, they have stood up and said, “No,” often and loudly. People have been coming out, stamping their feet, and shouting, this is not us, this is not our America and we will be heard.
Many, this Life in the Bay member realised how even one person could make a difference:
I used to feel anger and hopelessness in such situations, but I would also carry on my day thinking that someone else out there was more equipped to do something about it. I believed that things would miraculously get better because there is always someone else who would take care of it. It was something that “someone else” did, for me, for the general population, for the displaced, for the disenfranchised, for the unheard, for the invisible. It was someone else’s problem. I lamented it sure and even posted things on Facebook, but the lethargy and hopelessness in thinking that one person’s actions couldn’t do much to change the situation weighed me down.
But the stakes got higher recently, so high, that I have begun to think that it isn’t someone else’s problem anymore. That I can do something, start something. And as small as it is, it will impact the person next to me, and the next and the next. I can give someone that much needed shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, attention that no one else is giving, to make living through this bearable. To make things better, one person at a time. To inform, educate, empower. And with that knowledge, we can fight against racism, fascism, discrimination, and lies.
I never really felt the need for community, not as much as I do now. We can no longer, ignore the horrors that come through our newsfeed and our lives. I realise that the power of the common people, the power within me, is crucial. One person can make a difference. By empowering and educating ourselves, by lending a helping hand to the less fortunate, the less able, the displaced, we can hopefully win this battle. By educating, informing and arming ourselves with knowledge, and by helping each other, we can overcome this by strength in numbers.
In California, I am lucky to have only had positive experiences: People who are as equally upset as I am and willing to stick up for those less fortunate and bearing the brunt of the election results. I am fortunate to know many who are willing to stand up for climate change, for the disenfranchised and the less fortunate, the undocumented, the homeless, the abused.
Which leads me to action. I am angry enough to take action. And I am letting this anger motivate me into doing something and contributing to a cause that is so much bigger, and so much stronger than I am. The power of the woman. And I believe, very strongly, that if we all took action together, in whatever cause we champion, we can defeat the present-day horrors and minimise the damage that this current administration will cause. Because, if we don’t, there is no one else left to stand guard and champion our causes. If we don’t do it, who will?
There are still so many things that are up in the air. Constant questions. The Mexican border wall re-enters discussion periodically, there are constant rumours about which communities, which visas, which nationalities are next in the firing line, white supremacy continues to make the news. But at Life in the Bay, we have decided that we can make a difference, and this is the attitude that we have taken through 2017, and that has been seen across the Bay and the States. Life in the Bay launched our Love lives here campaign, with 50% of the proceeds going to the International Rescue Council (IRC), and painted signs and held a dinner to support the GiveLight foundation. We have begun to forge links with the refugee communities in the Bay and to build bridges to better understand our neighbours, whether through a drive to help refugees or one to help those affected by the devastating North California wildfires. These people may not all be immigrants, refugees, or expats, but they are all our neighbours, our community, and the people we want standing beside us when we stand up and say “enough is enough”.
2017 has been an uneasy year for many but what has prevailed is hope. Much like Pandora’s jar, (yeah, who knew box was incorrect?!) though much sadness, anger and fear crept into the world, hope has grown, has swelled, and has remained. At the beginning of the year, we may have believed that the protests, the marches, the vociferously saying no would disappear all too soon. But this has not been the case, every time a new obstacle has been thrown into the world, for immigrants, or others, there have been people right there, ready and willing to stand up and fight. There are many ways in which you can get involved. San Francisco even has its own activism/protest calendar.
Just remember that your right to protest is dependent on your legal and immigration status, so be sure to know your rights before you take action. But there are many opportunities to help waiting for you. See you out there!
Isn’t the Statue of Liberty a symbol of freedom from oppression? What about refugees fleeing persecution in Syria, aren’t they entitled to freedom too?