Let’s be active (citizens)

Since my last post, I went on a 12-day vacation to Colombia, which was incredible (slowly checking off my 2017 goals!). It was my first time to South America and I absolutely loved it! The food was delicious, the people were very welcoming and friendly, and I was also so happy to decompress and take time off work (my first long vacation since starting work 2.5 years ago). It also felt nice being in a country where I could practice speaking my parents’ native language and feel more connected to my Guatemalan roots. This was one of the few times travelling to a foreign country where people were less confused by my appearance, and for once in my life where ethnically I was not in the minority – I admit, it was refreshing.

While on vacation, big changes were happening back home. Before I left for Colombia, we still had our 44th president; when I came back, we had already inaugurated our 45th. Despite being abroad during the new president’s first week in office, I could feel Trump’s presence, and not in a positive way. In Colombia, I could tell people were not impressed with the new US administration.  Despite being a proud US citizen, I almost felt nervous to say I was from the US while abroad, so instead I said I was from California (as if that would help). How can the president think it’s okay to get rid of policies or programs that Americans are dependent on without having a well thought out replacement plan? Whatever happened to thinking before acting or treating others like you would like to be treated? Can you honestly tell me that the president is putting the appropriate people in his cabinet?

As the daughter of two minority immigrants, I’m horrified by what’s been happening this past month. My parents, after a long process, are now citizens (and are extremely grateful to be so), but this does not mean I’m not affected by the 90-day immigration ban, the wall Trump is threatening to put up, or the repeal of the Dream act for the undocumented who grew up here and are trying to educate themselves/be productive members of society (for those who don’t know, many dreamers have lived in the US for most of their lives and don’t know any other country – the US is their home). Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people coming to the US legally as well as the safety of this country, but this does not feel right. Intentional or not, the vibe the new administration is giving off is not welcoming towards minority groups, many of whom are immigrants – I know, because I feel it. I’ve never felt this way before. Growing up, I’ve always been aware of my ethnicity, skin color, and the challenges that come with being a minority as well as the daughter of immigrants. Part of me just wanted to stay in Colombia where I felt I would be well-treated by the government and where I felt like I fit in. However, this was an unrealistic notion (not to mention I have so many wonderful friends/family and know of amazing people doing good things back home!). Instead, I realized I should try to make my voice heard upon my return to the US. I’ve never felt compelled before to be an active citizen (other than voting), so to be honest, I’m not totally sure what I should be doing to help make a difference. I’m holding myself to the following actions over the next year, but I am looking for suggestions! Please comments if you have any other ideas!

As an active US citizen, I will:

  1. Send recurring donations to organizations I believe are for the people and are trying to help others
  2. Calling/emailing representatives regularly
  3. Participate in peaceful marches aimed toward improving women’s and/or minority rights or any other groups I feel drawn to (i.e. scientist’s march)
  4. Seek to understand people who may not think the same way I do and hopefully be able to find some common ground – we will never get anywhere without bipartisanship

I hope those reading this realize this is less about party lines and more about our future as a country. How do we want to be seen 40, 50 years from now? I hope to never lose my spirit as US citizen – my dream is that everyone else who lives here or wants to live here in the future can feel welcome and be proud of the USA.

~Alessa

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