Today we stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters and declare that we share the same fate- only when all people have a chance to succeed will the American Dream be realized.  Many businesses and restaurants are closed as immigrant communities’ make a collective statement- this country is nothing without immigrants.

For almost thirty years our organization has fought for racial, social and economic justice and we’ve partnered with immigrant serving organizations many times, but today as we experience #ADayWithoutImmigrants, we wanted to share our stories too.

Our current team consists of three staff who are immigrants, from Iranian, Egypt, Australia and England.  These individuals have chosen to make this country their home, to serve their country here and to make this a better country for all, not just the few with privilege and power.  Immigrants have directly shaped the face of our organization and have led important projects and even been recognized by the White House.  The previous White House.

Immigrant action

A family waits for the bus after an OCO action in East Oakland.

From Rania Ahmed on our research team:

“After participating in the Egyptian version of the Arab Spring in 2012, I left my home country escaping systemic oppression that impacted many Egyptians, and especially liberal women, to live the American Dream that I always day-dreamed of. As I feel without a home ever since, I’m grateful for the support, love, and care I receive in my everyday life from my peers, friends, colleagues, neighbors and even strangers. This community love cannot be quashed by ideologies that bring hatred, even if it is empowered by our leaders. I worked with international social justice organizations in Cairo, Egypt like the United Nations (UN), and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and I’m an alumni of the first cohort of 52 women from around the world of the Wellesley College’s Women in Public Service Project. As an immigrant researcher at the Council, I bring in my international experience and intellectual diversity to bear in the Bay Area with compassion and solidarity.”

Many of our African American staff also have recent immigrants in their families, whether it be a mother with Norwegian roots or a father from Trinidad, we all understand that immigrants are our history.

From our CEO, David A Harris

“My work on equity issues has only been enriched by my personal experience working with individuals whose background and upbringing were radically different from mine.  When I think about the historical experience of my African-American family, I feel the pain and struggle of generations who were discriminated against and denied opportunities, fighting for everything we achieved. Sometimes you believe your ‘pain’ is greater than others who didn’t experience slavery, Jim Crow, and American racism. My relationship with my immigrant and refugee colleagues has helped me understand the universality of human’s quest to conquer and oppress others (rendering their experience just as valid as mine), and the universality of the struggle for human freedom, expression and opportunity that exists within all of us – regardless of where we come from and the experiences that bring us together, today.”

We reject xenophobic messages from our leaders and lay claim to the facts that all men and women were created equal, that all people have value and dignity and we all have a duty to protect those in danger and to serve those in need. We hope today provides a reminder to all Americans that we need immigrants and that we lose by closing our borders and by creating fear in immigrant communities.

From Oakland, with love.

The Council Team