While protests swell at airports in support of immigrants, there are many who feel very differently and who feel emboldened to speak out in hateful ways. Immigrants are enduring more and more hate and harassment. What can we do to help?
I have 2 suggestions:
- Reach out to your friends who are immigrants.
- Do not reveal their immigration status without their consent.
Recent events are frightening to people who were not born in this country. Whether they have become citizens, have green cards, are here temporarily or are here through other means; whether they are from the nations recently banned or elsewhere: people are worried not only about staying in America, but also about their safety and the safety of their families (many of them have American-born children and/or spouses). Though they may not talk to you about it openly, many of them are dealing with scary things happening in the larger political world and in their own neighborhoods. Please take the time to listen to them. Ask them if they need to talk. Ask them how they’re feeling. Ask how you can help. Really listen without interjecting your own feelings. They need support. They need friendship. They need love. They need voices to counter the ugly ones that threaten them and tell them they don’t matter.
Please remember families where the parents may be American citizens, but their children were born in other countries. They’re often overlooked during the discussion. This can be particularly scary for them. Don’t bombard the parents with 10,000 questions (and don’t ask any questions around the children without first checking with Mom and/or Dad), but do let the parents know that you see what’s happening, you know this pertains to them, and you’re glad their children are here. Please offer to listen if they want to talk.
Find out what you can do to help. Ask them what they need. Truly listen to their response and follow through.
If you happen to know someone has come here from another country (even if they have since become an American citizen), do not tell other people that. Do not discuss it in public. The conversation I’m advocating in my first point should happen in a safe, private space. It is that person’s story to tell. Given the increasingly scary responses from those who declare “America first,” it may be something they want to keep quiet in order to protect themselves and their families.
Our friends need us. They need the show of support that comes with huge protests and welcoming signs. They need active work among politicians. They need friends to counter the hateful rhetoric with love and kind words.
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