Op-ed: As an immigrant, I worry about those who dared to dream

Op-ed: As an immigrant, I worry about those who dared to dream
Posted at 4:55 PM, Jan 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 16:55:57-05

Sonia Chopra is a contributor.

For the past 26 years, America has been my home. I had been on both student and work visas before I proudly made my pledge of allegiance to our country.

I love America, and I chose to live here because of its values, its traditions, its institutions and its constitutional laws that guarantee equality and freedom to all.

Every night, I slept easy in the land of freedom and opportunity. Until the night that Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th president of the United States.

After the negative, divisive election, I hoped for the best because I sincerely believe that if Trump succeeds, America succeeds.

But now I have serious doubts about a Trump presidency working effectively, let alone succeeding.

Sonia Chopra

I refer to the president’s executive order barring millions of refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from the United States. It has left me in a state of depression, despair, fear and apprehension.

I, an Indian immigrant, worry about all those who dared to dream of living in our country.

This order, coming off a campaign promise, is simply wrong and a dangerous attack on American values.

I am not going to discuss the politics or the legalities of the executive order because I am not a politician or a lawyer. But to be brutally honest, this isn’t a counter-terrorism measure. It is a Muslim ban.

What I do understand is the reasoning that propels immigrants to these shores. I know the passion, the hard work and determination that drives them to seek education or work experience here.

I know the pain of collecting money to buy clothes and the shoes for an interview at the American embassies. I know the anxiety of leaving a family and a country. I know the doubts that people have about themselves and the worries they have about assimilating into a new culture.

And yet immigrants go on to accomplish great things. They are not radicals. Most of the time, they are escaping countries that have deeply flawed systems, and they don’t deserve this level of scrutiny or humiliation.

They don’t just come here because of America’s prosperous and diverse economy. They are drawn to this country because our political, cultural and religious freedoms have meant that people’s fates are not preordained by their last name, tribe, caste or religion, as is the case in other countries.

Throughout its history, America has been open and inclusive. It has been an advocate against oppression and discrimination. America is a symbol of hope and a beacon of light for the world.

Although immigration to this country has had some dark, pain-filled moments, such as when the gates were closed to the many Jews during the Holocaust or when the Japanese were interned, we learned from those and moved on.

I am reminded of those sickening times as these new images flash before my eyes. I have tears running down my cheeks as I see the dismayed faces and hear the heartbreaking stories of the ordeals of elderly parents and young students deported on television.

Green card holders, elderly parents and young students handcuffed? Detained? Deported? In 2017 in America? Can anyone say that this is the right thing to do? Is this keeping America safe? Is there really no other way of screening for terrorists? Why are we punishing people for simply belonging to a religion?

Protesters in New York speak out against President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

The Trump administration is boasting about how these measures will stop the terrorists, but this is a damaging strategy which will alienate the countries on the list and force other nations to take sides.

Segregating immigrants and international students based on religion or nationality shows the world that we are a land of bias, suspicion and distrust.

Trump’s executive order to close America’s borders is a huge blow to the fundamental truth that our country is a melting pot and our constitutional mandate to never discriminate based on religion.

That’s probably what outraged and angered the thousands of protesters.

This is a shameful, hurtful ban and it punishes everyone. It breaks individuals, shatters families and hurts our economy. It severely impacts our diverse workforce, our vibrant tech sectors and the arts.

The long-term consequences of these restrictions will diminish our universities, our economy and all that America stands for in the world.

America excels when we embrace smart, talented, hardworking achievers who make vows to uphold our values of cultural tolerance, curiosity and freedom.

We are a stronger nation when we assimilate all immigrants. The day we make religion a part of the litmus test for being American, we turn our backs on the greatest fundamental truth that America is home to all religions. We have to understand that the greatness of the nation's history was created and will continue to be created by immigrants.

So, I sincerely hope that Washington will rethink the position on visas and immigration and let America remain in its position of being the greatest country to study, work and live.

As for Trump, I say to you, Mr. President, you don’t understand what it is to be American. Either learn or resign.