Immigrants Affected by the Ban

This ban on legal, green card holding immigrants, scholars, students, family members and refugees seeking solace on American land is horrifying.

That Trump and his administration enacted this ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day is like the cherry on top of cruelty. It feels like a bully on the playground beating up on the weakest kid there, just to show others that he is not to be messed with...

One week ago, on Sunday night I took Jack and Zoe to a local mosque for a pot-luck. While there, I spoke with a man from Ethiopia about how he and his family won the green card lottery to come to America 7 years ago. A lottery in which 15 million people worldwide apply for the 50,000 diversity visa spots given annually -- a .3% chance of being chosen.  How he had submitted every year and when they actually won they couldn't believe it.

Now imagine Americans buying a ticket at their local grocer for the super mega ball lottery. The chance to win millions of dollars and the dream to make their lives better. To win the lottery here in the states is to get handed more money than you have ever dreamed possible. But imagine you aren't trying to win millions of dollars but instead the privilege, the opportunity, the lottery, to come to America. Winning means starting your life over completely - without family, friends, or resources. To not speak the language, know the culture or know how or where you will live. And that 50 million people per year CHOOSE to do this and cannot believe their luck when they win.

Can you imagine any American wishing for that? Can we even imagine what that would be like? Most people here would consider that to be the equivalent of a prison sentence. The courage that it takes to up and move your family around the world... not knowing what is on the other side but hoping and trusting that it is better than the home and country you have always known. To know that America is the land where you can make your dreams come true.

So he packed up his family, a wife and a young child, and they moved to America. To a place they didn't have any family, relatives or friends. Expecting to see a sea of unfriendly white faces and scared of how they would get along barely speaking English -- knowing that their skill sets and education would be useless here, that they would have to reinvent themselves in a foreign land to survive.

But that's what they did, because the lure of a better life for their family, for their child and their future kids, was worth the risk...

But what they found was actually a sea of friendly faces. Helpful people. A neighborhood mosque that knew how difficult the transition would be and welcomed them. People on the street and in the grocery and in the neighborhood that accepted them and smiled and greeted them with a hello.

They are now a family of 6, three children were born in America and they have only gone back to visit Ethiopia once. They are living the American dream, going to the local schools, working and paying taxes and are happy to have the right to call America home. The right to feel safe. They came on a green card and are now proud American citizens.

When I arrived at the mosque last week, everyone greeted us pleasantly, told us where to go and where we could put our shoes. Offered us a seat. Smiled at us.

Half of the people in attendance were like me and my family, non-Muslims who have come to offer their support or to reach out in solidarity with a program – there were the ladies from the Jewish Synagogue that created a group with their Muslim sisters. The Catholic church reaching out to Syrian refugees. Other parents with kids trying to make sure that there kids didn't eat up all the treats on the dessert table.

They didn't know who we were. What they may have saw were some white people, obviously non-Muslim, outsiders. But what they did, was accepted us and welcomed us and fed us and befriended us. They treated us immediately like a friend, without judgment or fear.

In 2015, 1,371,663 people from the seven countries that Trump has put a ban on from entering the United States had entered the lottery to win a visa through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. A lottery for the chance to start their life over in a foreign land, the hope of a life without war, hunger, the nameless horrors that I can't even imagine... The government didn't share the numbers of how many of those applicants actual won a visa. But my thoughts are now with those who did, those who just two short years ago risked everything to come to America, the ones who were just now relaxing a bit into feeling what it's like to be safe... I can only imagine the fear that they now face in starting that process all over and that they may be denied their rightful place here in America. 

That our administration is reacting with such fear and hatred, is saddening, embarrassing and just not right. That people are being barred from entering their country is a travesty. That we are looking at people and making judgments as to who they are and what they believe and are judging them to be less than American. This is not what this country was built on.

I don't know what to do right now, but I do know that silence and acceptance is not the answer.


Jessica McClure