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During the last State of the Union address the president stated, “Open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities.”  The message was clear.  Immigrants are to blame for our problems.  Again the issue rises: as a nation we do not need to change ourselves, just build a wall and stop the loopholes for immigrants.  The president continued with condolences for two girls that were murdered by MS 13 gang members.  However, of all the mass murders (the murder of four or more people at one time) in the US for the last thirty-five years, the most likely shooter in the United States is a homegrown Caucasian male.  Violence by our legally born Caucasian citizens outperforms immigrants by a factor of five to one (1).  Murders by US born citizens are just as wrong as murders by MS 13.

The president has reverted our nation’s social progress back two centuries.  Women have been demeaned, body shamed, and mocked. We are back to the distrust of women and sexist comments seem normal.  Words hurt too.  Then comes the justification that Native tribes were heathens and therefore extermination was acceptable.  America’s First Nations still have to ask for rights on their own lands such as in the conflict over the Dakota pipeline.  We have lost our Native tribes contribution to natural medicines and healing. 

When other nations such as South Africa mistreat the native population it’s Apartheid, but we are blind to our modeling the same behavior.  This is the same hate that crippled our nation with slavery, and then plagued us with the racial tensions we still have today.  We are regressing to a doctrine of name calling and disconnecting.  Bullying is our government’s national language.  We can’t seem to shake the mistakes of our past and are now helplessly repeating them again.  Making America hate again will never make America great again.

As a woman, a Muslim, and an immigrant who has worked and excelled in the United States for the last four decades, I find myself ignored in my own country.  I have spent my life loving the United States, building our country and following our laws.  My life is dedicated to the United States and making America great.  How is it that the positive efforts and great contributions of immigrants are not mentioned?  We are expected to believe that immigrants did not make a difference, and that these types of people are not helping our society.  The racial divide is back.  On the contrary, we are made to believe that people from the ‘right race or country’ can do no wrong.  For example, The Las Vegas shooter is an isolated case of a lone wolf and therefore does not need to be feared.  Although the shooter was from a preferred racial background, the Las Vegas Shooter’s actions only apply to him as an individual, not the entire race or male sex.  The Parkland, Florida shooting is now focused on mental illness as a cause of another lone shooter.  Mental illness is definitely a problem, but that problem is amplified when mixed with easy access to an automatic weapon.

Focusing on the immigrant debate, we have flourished as a nation because of our diversity.  During the shortage of skilled workers, our federal government opened immigration to doctors, engineers, and scientists.  Thanks to this open-minded policy, we have the highly skilled talent that we need.  Other nations struggle because they are not able to attract that level of talent.  The American government quite literally begged people of all nations to come to America and contribute intellectually to our society. The result: a more diverse, more connected community of people who thrive on sharing ideas and learning from others.

Saying that these groups aren’t important is like saying parts of a body do not matter.  Imagine planning to run a marathon as a nation while focusing only on our leg muscles, heart and lungs.  After all when running these parts of our body carry the load.  But we ignore the ears.  If we have an earache, how will win this marathon?  A hurting immigrant or minority is like having a body in pain.  Eventually the pain will slow us down.  Each citizen in America is a cell in our nation’s body.  If a cell is in pain, the entire body will feel the pain.  And we will not be able to move forward whether it’s a marathon or a light walk.  Every part of the body plays a crucial role, and honoring every person’s humanity is what makes us great.  By marginalizing groups we only hurt people.  And hurt people are the ones who hurt people.

Generalizing immigrants as criminals that do not follow our rules is just promoting a stereotype.  Lies deplete our nation’s power and global image.  Not all immigrants left their countries in hardship or loss of hope.  Many immigrants came to the United States to contribute, serve in our military (like my husband), and love this country.  When has discrimination ever created success?  These immigrants came by choice and are now leaving by choice, taking their intellectual capabilities and contributions with them.  They have moved back to Asia and Africa starting new companies that take advantage of the human talent and work ethics in those regions.  These companies do not discriminate based on race or nationality.  They are now competing for jobs that used to belong exclusive to our citizens. Our economy has gone global, it is time for our minds to go global too.  The rest of the world is conversing and connecting.  Now is the time for us to amplify our conversations and our connections with each other.  

An Arab proverb states: our conditions will not change until we change ourselves (2). The State of the Union reminds us that now is time to reach out and connect with each other.  Let’s smile at each other, share our viewpoints, and shine together as truly united citizens of the United States.  The path to our future is to rebuild the bonds of contribution, uniqueness, and communication that really made America great.