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Alana Wilson: Speak up for freedom, liberty & dignity

By Alana Wilson

Special to the Salisbury Post

I am a proud graduate of North Rowan High School, and my childhood in Rowan County shaped me into a compassionate person and global citizen. My work as a researcher has taken me around the globe, but rarely have I ever been in communities as diverse as the student body with whom I attended NRHS. My peers included immigrants, refugees and children of refugees. The church I was raised in also shaped me by imparting strong Christian values — love thy neighbor, advocate for the weak and oppressed, question and resist corruption.

But every day of the last week, my heart has been broken each time another friend or loved one has revealed their personal story of how President Trump’s executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries has impacted them.

Today my co-worker, a prestigious scientist with a Ph.D. from a U.S. university, disclosed that she and her husband are fleeing to Canada. They cannot stay here since her husband’s green card application has been frozen and his current visa expires in a few weeks. They cannot go back to their country of origin out of fear of being sentenced to death for being atheists. So now they seek permission to live in Canada to escape a death fated to them by President Trump if forced to go back to a country they haven’t called home for many years.

Another friend has spent six years studying for a Ph.D. while also volunteering in our community, advocating on behalf of low-income individuals, and teaching hundreds of university students every year. After Trump’s executive order, he had to cancel his trip to see his dying father because if he leaves the country he won’t be allowed back in, and that would jeopardize the completion of his doctoral degree.

Yet another friend is seeking asylum after defecting from President Bashar Assad’s army in Syria — not wanting to fight on behalf of a government that was destroying his way of life and known world. Because of his military defection, he cannot go back to Syria, but now President Trump’s legislation, if it stands, prevents the possibility for him to receive asylum here and he, too, may seek refuge in another country.

These are just a few stories in a cascade of devastation that continues to tear apart families, effectively imprison hundreds of thousands of long-term residents and visa holders, and deny millions their humanity.

Everything I have ever learned about being a kind person, good neighbor and noble citizen has been violated by President Trump’s ban on immigration and visitation based exclusively on country-of-origin.

For my friends, the USA was a beacon of hope, and they overcame incredible odds to pursue higher education here. They escaped war, oppression and dictatorships to come here and pursue the American Dream of creating better lives for themselves and their children, yet now their lives and dreams are shattered. These are humble, hard-working people who are being used as pawns in a political chess game, and their oppression is a scar on our democracy.

For these individuals, and the hundreds of thousands like them, any loyalty and affinity they felt for the USA is quickly vanishing. Sentiments across the seven countries affected by the ban are also negatively affected, something Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain point out with great concern. The reality is that heartbreak, broken dreams and separated families are the most common outcomes from this order.

We have always been a nation of immigrants, a place of refuge for those fleeing war and persecution, for those seeking opportunity for themselves and their children. The blanket ban based on country of origin is un-American and a cruel assault on the millions of people directly affected by it. Please speak up for the freedom, liberty, and dignity that define our democracy — contact U.S. Senators Burr and Tillis, and your House representative and ask them to support legislation repealing Executive Order 13769. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”.

I stand proudly and fiercely with my immigrant friends and neighbors. Won’t you stand with us?

Alana Wilson lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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