A VOTE IN FAVOR
A good friend and business associate of mine came into my
office last week, armed with videos and pictures of 1374 immigrants from 95
countries taking the oath to become a citizen of the United States of
The ceremony was held at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, and
one of the oath takers was her sister, who is Filipina. She came to the U.S.
on a work-sponsored visa and eventually got her green card. Only after the
last presidential election did she decide to apply for citizenship.
"I was scared for the future," she told me when I
called her and asked what prompted her to apply. "Anti-immigrant
sentiment has awakened. What will happen next year? The fear factor was very
important in my decision."
She said she was comfortable with her green card and never saw
an immediate need to take the next step. She could do anything, except vote.
Now she wants to vote and make a difference.
"This is my home," she said. "My loyalty is to
the United States. I feel safe now."
Safe. Lucky her. Lucky me. Lucky us.
I thought about a couple of other people I know. They're in
their early 20's and have been in the United States since they were
children. They're the so-called "Dreamers," and they have no path
to citizenship. Needless to say, they're
scared to death.
My friend's sister was fearful the current administration would
take away some, if not all, of her green card rights. Imagine the fear of
those who have no rights.
I looked at the pictures and watched the video of the ceremony.
I listened as a speaker announced each of the 95 countries represented by
the immigrants. I listened to the oath of citizenship, where the applicants
vowed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
It was so inspiring to see the diversity of the men and women
who were celebrating their adopted country. When I watched the video of the
song "God Bless America," with accompanying pictures of our
American heritage, I started to tear up. And I wasn't even there.
The next video, though, was of President Trump welcoming the
immigrants as new citizens of our country. As soon as his face was on the
screen, a scattering of boos filled the auditorium. It certainly didn't take
long for a few of our new citizens to understand the concept of free speech.
"He came across as angry and scary," my friend's
sister said, who was not one who booed and thought it was extremely
disrespectful. "It was though he was reprimanding us because we were
new citizens. It was not inspiring at all."
I watched the video, and didn't see it that way. I'm no fan of
the President, but as long as he's reading off a teleprompter, he can
sometimes be tolerable. This was one of those times.
So why did my friend's sister, and those few that booed and shouted
"fake news" feel the way they did? Because of the divisiveness
this President has fostered over the issue of immigration, along with
numerous other issues.
Very few of us want to see open borders. Most of us are in
favor of border protection, short of building a wall. The immigration laws,
and the path to citizenship, is a complicated issue that probably won't be
resolved anytime soon.
The only thing I'm suggesting is to not blame the immigrants.
They have goals and dreams just like all of us. Most of them desperately
want to sit in that auditorium and take the oath that will allow them to
become a citizen of the United States.
We are, as has been said many times, a nation of immigrants. 95
countries were represented at this one oath-taking venue, from Mexico to
Ghana to Pakistan. 95 heritages. 95 nations that lost some good people in
order to make our country stronger.
We need to embrace immigration as an idea, not vilify it. We
need to understand that immigration is a positive, not a negative. We can't
be anti-immigrant. To watch this incredibly inspiring and joyful ceremony
should be required for anyone who thinks immigration should be stifled.
Once we understand that immigration and diversity not only
built this country, but continues to make it the greatest country on earth,
the fair and just laws will come.