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An American Tale

My parents grew up in Taiwan during the 1950s and 60s, at a time when Taiwan was a resource-poor and low-income island that was dependent on U.S. aid. My father’s father was a rural school principal, and my father’s mother helped feed their family of 9 children with their small, family farm. My mother’s parents owned a traditional Chinese herbal medicine store in their village, which supported their family of 7 children.

By President Trump’s standards today, as expressed in remarks yesterday about Haiti, El Salvador, and all African countries, my parents should never have been allowed to immigrate to the United States from their “shithole” island.

By denigrating the story of immigrants, President Trump denigrates the story of our nation.

Thankfully, Trump was not president in the 1970s, when my parents did immigrate here, which was only possible after decades of laws that excluded or limited Chinese people from coming to the U.S. were fully repealed in the 1960s. My father came to America in the 1970s to pursue his master’s degree in chemistry, which led to his first job in Minneapolis (where I was born), where he helped advance the science underlying Scotch tape. My mother, who had worked as a nurse in Taiwan, began as a low-wage health care aid at a nursing home while she learned English from watching T.V. soap operas, until she was able to pass her nursing exams. She went on to work in the delivery ward of a small, community hospital for over 20 years, helping deliver two generations of families in the small, rural community where I grew up.

I have gone on to devote my career as a lawyer advancing civil rights, and my sister is a doctor who conducts research on reproductive health. Her husband, also a doctor, is the son of parents who immigrated from India, and their children – my 13-year-old nephew and 9-year-old niece – recently donated money from their allowances to help defend transgender Americans who want to serve in the military. Since the 2016 election, they have listened to the news with interest and have voiced fears about how President Trump and how his policies may affect their lives, their friends, our family, and our country.

My husband Adam and I with our families over the holidays.

I share my family’s history not because it is exceptional, but because it is entirely ordinary. It is the story of America. With the exception of Indigenous Americans and those who were forcibly brought here through slavery, in every family, in every community, these stories of hope and hard work through immigration is what built our country into what it is today.

By denigrating the story of immigrants, President Trump denigrates the story of our nation.

It is beyond time to defend Dreamers from deportation. It is beyond time to pass comprehensive immigration reform that protects family integrity and refugees. It is beyond time that we build bridges instead of walls, allies instead of enemies, with the rest of the world community.

On the night of President Trump’s election, my husband, who is a humanitarian aid doctor and whose mother immigrated here from Argentina, was working in a rural village on the south coast of Haiti, which was struggling with a cholera epidemic that had developed after the devastating earthquake in 2010. While he began the evening following the election results with his fellow aid workers from Haiti, they eventually left him before the results came in to get some rest, in preparation for another grueling day of work rebuilding their small community.

I imagine if those Haitian heroes could speak to President Trump today, they would invite him to roll up his sleeves and help rebuild their sewage system, which will help stem the spread of cholera in their village.

But we already know how Trump feels about that.

Immigration is a bedrock principle of our country, and we are made stronger by it. It is up to Congress to do the right thing and take immediate action to protect the lives of thousands of individuals and their families whose futures are at stake.

Call members of Congress and demand they pass the DREAM Act to support thousands of young people toward stability and legal residency in the U.S.; restore temporary protected status (TPS) for the nearly 200,000 citizens of El Salvador who have been lawfully residing in the U.S. following devastating earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001; and enact immigration policies that are true to American values.

For more information, and how you can contact members of Congress, visit:

United We Dream

National Immigration Law Center