The Immigrants I know

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There are 3,733,580 of us in the Seattle metro area today. About 645,000 of us are foreign born. More than 15,000 of us are refugees.

Inside Seattle Public Schools 129 languages are spoken. One-hundred and twenty-nine.

Between 2000 and 2014, Seattle’s immigrant population grew 20%. We are the 15th largest metro area in the United States, but we are in the top three in terms of pace of population growth.

I know immigrants. I know people whose families moved to Seattle from Guatemala, from Bolivia, from Ethiopia, from South Korea, from China, from Somalia, from Egypt, from Venezeula, from the U.K, from Australia, from Eritrea, from Nigeria, from Taiwan, from Cambodia, from Vietnam, from Russia, from India, from the Philippines, from Canada, from Mexico. They’re our neighbors in our apartment building. They’re my coworkers. They’re my friends. They’re my family, literally, because my cousin’s wife immigrated to Seattle from South Korea with her parents when she was a toddler.

I, like many Americans, am only American because my ancestors decided to make the brave and terrifying journey from another country. I was so intrigued when my Aunts Diane and Debbie located documents that proved some of my ancestors immigrated to the United States from Ireland between 1850 and 1856. The Irish were the brunt of brutal discrimination at that time. These sorts of disclaimers were common on job postings and elsewhere:

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I did not expect to cry while I was typing this, but tears are rolling down my cheeks. I expect some of these tears are those of my ancestors who had dreamed of something much different for us.

I’m sitting at my desk in Seattle, one of the most innovative and technology-focused cities in our country. These are just some of the companies that have their headquarters in Seattle: Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, Nordstrom, Expedia, Starbucks, T-Mobile, Zillow, Holland America Cruise Line, CostCo, Alaska Airlines, Nintendo of America, Eddie Bauer, and R.E.I. Other companies like Google and Facebook that are also leading in innovation are headquartered in San Francisco, but they are scaling their Seattle campuses in large ways. All of these companies are bringing people by the thousands from all over the world and country to live and work here.

Our city is so full of innovation and skill in technology that I’m seeing things like this developed in light of Trump’s election:

screenshot_2017-01-28-09-26-34screenshot_2017-01-28-09-26-47So many people are immigrants to this city. If you were to stop people walking down the street in our neighborhood, it would be easier to find people who aren’t from Seattle than it would to find those who grew up here. I’ve only been here two and half years.

Just a couple weeks ago I had coffee with a woman who wanted to know more about TeamChild’s work representing kids of color who are expelled from school. As we started talking she told me that she and her husband, and their two young kids, were recruited to move to Seattle to work at two of our major tech companies. She and her husband work to design and engineer technology products you likely use daily. She is from the U.K. Her husband is from Nigeria. Neither of them have full citizenship yet.

As she told me about her kids and what schools they go to, she started to cry. I’d like to say I was caught off-guard, but I wasn’t. I felt her pain. She wiped her nose as she told me that they aren’t sure what’s going to happen and they’re making plans to leave if they have to. These are extremely privileged folks. They have means to do something about their situation if it gets worse. In fact, she told me that the night of the Trump’s election, her husband’s family in Nigeria called them offering to send a plane to bring them to Nigeria right away. They felt the family would be safer there.

Another immigrant I know has become one of mine and Nick’s best friends in our neighborhood. He’s from the U.K. and he is in a senior position at Microsoft designing products  on the edge of innovation that aren’t out yet, but that you will no doubt use daily. I had dinner with him two nights ago and he was calm as he told me that he does not have full citizen status and that he and his boyfriend of two years are now prepared to have a shotgun wedding if they need to, to keep him in the U.S. They are also making arrangements to move to the U.K. together if it gets bad enough here. My friend is a very privileged immigrant.

My colleague, an attorney who represents Latino teenagers who are expelled from school, shared her experience with me yesterday. She works a couple hours outside Seattle and the teenagers she represents are DACA kids who are now at risk of being deported under Trump. She also works with teenagers whose parents are undocumented Latinos who’ve come here to work in agriculture. These parents are now at risk of deportation at any moment. My colleague told me that her clients and their families are so terrified that they didn’t want to leave their homes for a while after the election. They’re scared to come to know-your-rights trainings for fear of being found out by authorities. They’re scared to go to work for fear of workplace immigration raids. My colleague is now also volunteering to be an emergency responder to workplace raids, if and when they come.

The uncertainty, the fear, it’s visceral. How could it not be after what Trump did yesterday? Here’s the way the news looked on my phone:

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screenshot_2017-01-27-14-53-39screenshot_2017-01-27-14-53-23screenshot_2017-01-27-15-54-21screenshot_2017-01-26-14-07-38screenshot_2017-01-28-07-33-52screenshot_2017-01-28-07-36-00In Seattle, there was an immediate official response that our city will defy any orders from Trump that would put our neighbors and friends in danger.  And, people came together, refugees and non-refugees, in a church downtown. Refugees in our city shared their fear, sadness, their stories. And, crowds of neighbors supporting them, listened. Here’s how The Seattle Times reported it:

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What’s most alarming, and frankly unbelieveable, to me is what I’m seeing in the way of white supremacists and even Nazis starting to show their faces in our city. There are white supremacists and Nazis who have been emboldened by Trump’s election and they are organizing in and around Seattle. People have seen these posters and messages at the University of Washington:

screenshot_2017-01-27-15-43-37screenshot_2017-01-27-12-58-24screenshot_2017-01-27-12-57-55screenshot_2017-01-27-12-55-35I don’t have anything else to say right now because I am simply in disbelief at what I’m seeing. Please know I am trying to channel my fear into working hard to organize with my neighbors.

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