Economic drains, criminals, invaders, job takers. This is the story that the media often tells about immigrants and immigration. In reality, immigrants are human beings. Similarly, immigrants thrive and contribute to the communities they live in and are integrated into our family and friend networks. Thus, immigration is not just a political and economic issue, it is personal; it is moral. A group of students at CU intends to change the stories often told, and reveal a new immigration story — one with a human face.
Last summer, during a program with INVST Community Studies at CU, the four of us traveled to the border at El Paso, Tex. We heard the first-hand stories from people ranging from border patrol to immigrant families, to learn about the complexity of immigration. The stories told by families were about domestic abuse, poverty, persecution, and the promise of safety in a new land, not the desire to steal jobs or cheat the system. Although these families carry much heartache, we also witnessed a remarkable amount of joy. One particular day, we sat down for lunch when a rainstorm flooded the streets. Our group of CU students along with the children and mothers we stayed with rushed outside, tackled each other into the flooded street, and laughed blissfully. This experience opened our eyes and hearts to the personal connection among all people.
This drove us to create a CU based student group called Student Voice for Immigrant Rights. We strive to create a space for all people to share their stories and continue the conversation about immigration and human rights. Come join us at our first event to educate people comprehensively about immigration, an Activist Training Session on Thursday Feb. 3rd from 4-6:30 in UMC 384 at CU. The workshop includes an interactive theater performance, artistic celebration, food, talks from students, professors and community members! Change won`t happen on its own, but through shared experience we can create it. Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but about learning to dance in the rain.
THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM
I remember I celebrated the millennium watching the fireworks over Cairo. A year later I was glued to one of the only international TV channels we had, showing America in turmoil during the 9/11 attacks. I talked about it with other kids at school, and we even had an evacuation plan put in place by my father`s employers, who were afraid of extremists. They needn`t have bothered — any comments I heard were from taxi drivers or shop keepers telling me in broken English how the acts of the terrorists were “bad” and not representatives of “true Islam.”
When anyone asks me what it was like living in Egypt, I say that it`s one of my favorite countries in the whole world — cultured and civilized, where the people are obviously proud of their nation and heritage. It is also a very modern society. I was the last in my class to get Internet at home. Egyptian girls got their first cell phones several years before me. They also started dating and wore makeup before I did.
Yet they didn`t have the same human rights that I have always taken for granted.
The Egyptian people just want the same basic human rights that we experience every day in America. The protesters we see on the street are normal people like you and me- they are students, shop owners, parents with children- they are participating in non-violent demonstrations about their desire for a better Egypt.
What they, and we, need now is our open, declared support.