This is Our Home
Who decides who belongs in a community?
Who decides if you can call a place home?
As immigrants ourselves, EBCF board member Hector Preciado and I know firsthand, the tragedy and odyssey that defines the immigration journey.
I was born in El Salvador at the start of the civil war. I was not even two years old when my father was forcibly disappeared – shattering my family and marking the beginning of my journey to seek refuge in a foreign land.
Hector and his family were forced to leave their home in Mexico due to the economic challenges facing the region. Like many immigrants, they traveled thousands of miles, had to endure coyotes, and place their lives at risk. They endured, all in the name of a chance, not a guarantee, at a better life.
No one should be forced to leave their home, whether it be for economic distress, political persecution, or violence. Many immigrants have come here like us, to survive and find a better life, to find a new home. Yet for the past year, for many immigrants, every day seems to send a reminder that we are not welcome here, that we don’t belong in the United States.
We have been immersed in the harshest public debates and policy shifts on immigration in decades. Over the past two years we have borne witness to the travel ban, the rescission of the DACA program, the denial of Temporary Protected Status to various countries, the ubiquitous threat of building “the wall,” a Supreme Court decision which asserted that immigrants (even legal permanent residents) may be held indefinitely without right to a bond hearing, the doubling down on separating children from families at the border, and most recently, the announcement that immigration officials can consider whether immigrants receiving public benefits may become a “public charge” risking their ability to become legal permanent residents (LPRs) or a candidate for entry to the U.S.
The public discourse focuses on the right for immigrants to call this country home. Little attention has been given to analyzing the root causes of immigration or understanding the trauma that most immigrants suffer just to escape the unimaginable conditions they are fleeing from. Policy debates have failed to address how we can actually restructure our immigration system to continuously attract immigrants to help us grow our economy. Instead of investing in helping our fellow immigrants live their lives to their fullest potential, the current public discourse denigrates and denies them basic humanity.
Here in the East Bay, we are reminded that we are home.
During this past year, we have been grateful to be among a community of individuals at the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) who on a daily basis work to rebut this horrid debate. With support from our current and former board of directors, the EBCF staff, our incredibly generous donors, some of whom are recent immigrants and some whose families are longtime residents, the EBCF community has invested in building grassroots immigrant leadership.
EBCF is home to several funds investing in immigrant leaders — from the #OneNation fund, a coalition led by Asian Health Services to raise awareness about the public charge issue and pressure our leaders in Congress to revoke this damaging rule, to the New Breath Foundation fund dedicated to strengthening formerly incarcerated youth rebuilding their lives, to the Bridge fund, which supports a network of immigrant domestic violence leaders, EBCF values and upholds the uniqueness of the immigrant experience. Our Building Immigrant Power Fund was established to strengthen local organizations serving immigrant communities, helping to create a rapid response network in Contra Costa County. This fund has activated our partners to collectively leverage public funds for over $1M in multi-year support.
The EBCF community reminds us daily that the East Bay at its core must be and will be a place that welcomes immigrants. EBCF affirms the value and humanity of our immigrant neighbors and, through our work, is striving to make sure all residents know that they belong.
America is our country. The East Bay is our home.
Times like these require courage and a moral will to stand up for community. We have an opportunity in the East Bay and beyond, to reaffirm what we believe to be the best and true values of our nation: democracy, freedom, justice, dignity, equitable opportunity, inclusion and diversity, and protecting those most vulnerable, like our immigrant neighbors.
Will you join us and support our immigrant brothers and sisters with your gift today? Consider making a donation to the Building Immigrant Power Fund. Our goal is to raise $300,000 by September 30, 2019, to meet the rising need to protect and defend local immigrant communities. Will you help us reach this goal?
Your contribution will be used to invest in community organizations working on the ground to support East Bay immigrants with needed access to legal services, human services, job training, and more – through innovative collaborative coalitions like #OneNation, Stand Together CoCo, as well as other initiatives.
Alexandra Aquino-Fike is the Vice President of Development at the East Bay Community Foundation.
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