**This is a statement I gave at a demonstration against Donald Trump’s immigration & refugee policies on Friday, January 27th, 2017.**
My Friends and Neighbors,
As much as I wish it was under different circumstances, I am proud to stand with you today and offer my unequivocal solidarity to the immigrants and refugees, their families and loved ones that share this community. I want to make it clear that I am committed, both in my personal capacity and in my capacity as your representative, to do absolutely everything that is in my power to protect every single member of our community from the destructive, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic policies and actions of the Trump administration.
If you march, I will march with you. If you protest, I will protest with you. If you need sanctuary, I will shelter you. I will stand behind you and I will not back down, wherever the next few months or years take us, and there are many others in this city who will stand with you as well. We are ready for a fight.
The Durham City Council has on many occasions in the last 2 years reiterated our commitment to a diverse and inclusive community.
In October of 2015, we unanimously passed a resolution supporting the resettling of Syrian refugees in our community.
In February of last year, we unanimously endorsed a resolution from our Human Relations Commission urging federal immigration officials to release Durham youth being detained in immigration facilities and to suspend raids in Durham targeting immigrant youth.
In April of last year, we passed a unanimous resolution opposing the discriminatory and anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2 and calling for its repeal.
In June of last year, we endorsed the Faith ID program, an initiative that allows undocumented and other immigrants to obtain identification that can be used to help them access community resources.
Finally, in November of last year we passed a resolution condemning hate speech, racism, and Islamophobia and issued an open letter to the community. In that letter, we write:
“The Durham City Council (1) condemns all hateful speech and violent action directed at Muslims, those perceived to be Muslims, immigrants and people of color; (2) categorically rejects any politician’s anti-Muslim rhetoric used as a tactic to influence voters or inflame hostilities; (3) commits to pursuing a policy agenda that affirms civil and human rights, and ensures that those targeted on the basis of race, religion or immigration status can turn to government without fear of recrimination; (4) reaffirms the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of a culture composed of multiple cultures, and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear; and (5) pledges to work to make Durham a city that reflects those values in word and deed.”
I believe that it is an act of violence to deport young people who were brought here by their parents as children. It is an act of violence to separate parents and children, spouses and partners, from the connections that form their lives. It is an act of violence to lock up children with their parents on the border, sometimes for years, without access to proper care, people who pose absolutely no risk to our communities.
It is unconscionable for us to turn our backs on people who are fleeing violence and oppression rather than welcoming them as neighbors. We are a nation of immigrants and immigration has built this country, but we are also a nation built on stolen land with stolen labor. We are a country that has dropped bombs on the residents of nearly every nation we seek to ban from entering this country. We owe these people sanctuary, and we should turn no one away.
I want to quote the poem Home, by Warsan Shire, a Somali-born British poet. This poem was inspired by the war and refugee crisis in Syria.
“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.”
It is my belief that migration is our birthright as human beings. We have an inalienable right to travel this earth without fear, to build and create with each other, to build families and lives of purpose and happiness, without the limits of borders and walls.
I watched an interview recently with Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist who was a lead organizer for the Women’s March on Washington and has recently been targeted by Islamophobic abusers online. In this interview, she spoke about the role of love in our movement, and she said “our work is not done, because our love for our people is not done.”
It is with love for all of our people that I am calling us all to action. It’s time for us to fight like our lives depend on it, because they do.