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Immigrants and Their Children Respond to Trump: #BanThis

Editor’s note: This piece was co-written by Maria Rohani and Sameen Ahmadnia.

On February 15, 2017, we launched #BanThis, a photo campaign curated by the children of immigrants in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees and nationals of seven ‘Muslim majority’ countries from entering the U.S.. The order, or “Muslim Ban” – phrasing used by Trump during his own Presidential campaign – is unfounded, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory. But worst of all, it is personally devastating to the individuals it impacts, to their families, friends, and communities. 

As Iranian-Americans and activists, we decided to curate a project that would work against the  narratives surrounding the ban and instead shed light on what we know to be true – the experiences we had growing up as immigrants and children of immigrants.

So, we dreamt up “#BanThis”, a nationwide call for stories of immigrants and refugees and their descendants. The campaign has started with stories from New York, San Francisco, Orange County, Los Angeles,. and Detroit. On the website, the campaign will continue to collect submissions from people who want to participate by telling the stories of their families’ journey to the U.S.

We have collected stories like that of Jengeih S. T., an immigrant from Liberia who moved here as a child and is now a lawyer in Washington, D.C.

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Or of Jill H., whose grandparents immigrated from Belgium during World War II, and spent several years in Cuba before gaining entry to the United States.

Since the ban, much has been said about the exceptional contributions of refugees and immigrants. Opponents of the ban have argued that we would not have attorneys, doctors, NBA players, activists. They are not wrong – that is undeniable. But this campaign works to show the contributions made by immigrants that are normalized but are perhaps more critical to this nation. Our culture, traditions, and values as a nation are deeply influenced by immigrants. Without those who migrated here, we would be missing the things that make up everyday life in this country.

Banning people means losing “American aspirations and values” says Nnamdi O., a Nigerian immigrant who came here as a child because the United States was in need of well-trained doctors and his parents fit that bill.

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We agree. There is so much we risk losing when any of us are banned. Unlike what is claimed by the administration, we are not banning the unknown, the evil, the ever illusive ‘other’. This order  is banning us – people who have been a part of the United States for generations and who make up this nation. Trump’s oversimplified rhetoric on immigration is a false depiction of our country, its history of immigration, and our struggles. #BanThis resists this erasure.

To see more of this project and contribute to the campaign, follow them on Instagram at @banthiscampaign or check out their website at banthisthecampaign.org.

Maria is a social movements strategist in New York City. Sameen is an attorney practicing asylum law in Washington, D.C.

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