I was born to a middle class family in Ecuador, I chose to come to this country and I chose to stay in this country. I was afforded the luxury of lawyers, money, time, and patience that it takes to be a legal immigrant in this country. Yes, I am an immigrant by choice, and I have legally resided in this country for the last fifteen years.
I chose Alaska as my home because I fell in love with its people, their warmth, their diversity, their love for nature, their innate adventurous, go getter spirits. Alaskans welcomed me, a South American foreigner, with open arms, and I have tried to give back to this community as much as it has given me.
I used to work for the Office of Student Affairs as an undergrad at UAA. During Orientation we would tell the students how much pride we took in them, in their diversity. We told them that no matter where they came from, a village in Alaska, Germany, or Minnesota, they were welcomed and their culture was celebrated. Lately I long for those days, I am not trying to compare the world to the microcosm of a university, but today I find it hard to look at this community, this country, like the one I fell in love with.
Today after a week of insane executive orders, President Trump decided to ban people from seven countries from entering the United States, including refugees. His executive order to close America's borders caused chaos in major airports where travelers from these countries were stopped from boarding flights; students, workers, green card holders barred from entering the U.S.
A week ago my family and I came back from vacationing in Ecuador and today I wondered what would have happened if when we landed in Houston, immigration had detained me, a green card holder, because one man thought I was born in the wrong country, under the wrong religion. Would I have told my American husband to go ahead with our American toddler and leave me behind? Would I have called my employer of 6 years and told him that I didn't know what my fate was going to be, so I would not be at work on Tuesday as I said I would? Would I have cried in desperation and outrage not knowing if I would make it back to my home?
I am not a refugee. I do not know what it's like to leave my home, family, and possessions behind because of the atrocities of war. No one has ever persecuted me because of my religion or the country I was born in, but now I live in fear of being added to one of the President's lists, because if you haven't paid attention, today even people with the legal paperwork were put through hell.
I have lived a good, small, ordinary, unremarkable life and that sometimes makes me feel powerless, like I cannot possibly do anything to stop this madness. But I have this platform, I have this voice, and by golly I will use it in hopes that people will stop looking at this like paperwork and start putting a face, mine if you want, when you think of an immigrant. After all, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who said "in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
I will be silent no more.