For those of us belonging to marginalized groups, the world can often feel like an unwelcoming place. However, I think back to my first week as EBASE’s Community Engagement Coordinator, when the EBASE staff huddled around a computer to watch President Obama’s immigration reform speech. That day, I began making the connections between being so welcome in my new organization, my own immigration story, and the difficult path for people immigrating to the United States today.
Years ago, when my parents decided to immigrate to the US from our native Iran, we faced many challenges, including spending years apart; leaving family and property behind; and adjusting to a new culture. The path to citizenship was long. But we made it, and opportunities were still available to us. Because some families do make it, I know what is possible. And I know that as a country, we have greater capacity to welcome than we are acting on.
The executive order laid out by President Obama last November extends protections against deportation to people who enter the country before the age of 16 as well as their parents. Obama’s action only came to fruition because courageous immigrants stepped forward, told their stories, and risked deportation in the hope for justice. It was pressure from our communities that pushed the President to embrace this small step forward.
Recently, when a federal judge ordered a last-minute halt to the program, it underscored that there is still a long path ahead toward building a humane immigration policy.
After all, immigrants, documented or not, are workers, taxpayers, community members, and our friends and family. Shouldn’t we be generous of spirit with those who go through a difficult transition to join a new community and work hard to contribute to its success? Shouldn’t we welcome the stranger?
I have been hopeful as I’ve begun working closely with you, EBASE’s supporters, to know that you agree that justice will only come if we include the immigrants among us in the equation for economic justice. Immigrant communities are on the front lines of so many of the low-wage jobs, abusive employers, and economic disparities we fight against.
EBASE and FAME, our faith-rooted organizing program, see these blocks to progress happening at the federal level and know that there is a need for further legislative solutions for this broken system. We recommit to fighting at the local and statewide level, in solidarity with local groups like ACUDIR to make the East Bay and California welcoming to immigrants, and to model to the nation what is possible and what is just.
We are resilient, and we are not giving up. With you, we can work together to not only welcome the stranger, but to take up the fight of immigrant rights as part of the holistic movement of lifting up all people so we can thrive, together. Thank you for joining us. And thank you for welcoming me.
Community Engagement Coordinator