Advocacy: a privilege of citizenship
“Government of the people, by the people, and for the people."
This week I participated in Refugee Council USA's Advocacy Days meetings with the offices of Representative Jennifer Wexton (D, 10th District) and Representative Rob Wittman (R, 1st District) joining fellow Virginians to advocate for permanent pathways to citizenship for our Afghan allies and displaced Ukrainians. It felt good to exercise my privilege as a citizen, but I was even more moved by listening to the personal stories of an Afghan-American man who risked his life as a translator for our military, and of a courageous Afghan women’s rights activist who was evacuated in August 2021 and whose safety will not be secure until we pass the Afghan Adjustment Act.
Their stories are not mine to tell, but both demonstrated why it is not enough that we have evacuated 76,000+ Afghans to American soil, we must also provide them with a permanent pathway to citizenship, protect their family members and vulnerable women who are still in hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we must do the same for Ukrainians.
The bi-partisan (and worldwide) support of Afghans and Ukrainians has been overwhelming. It has re-awakened, in Ronald Reagan's words, "America’s tradition as a land that welcomes peoples from other countries." He went on to say, "We shall also, with other countries, continue to share in the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression."
For the almost 100 million (to date) forcibly displaced people who likewise have fled conflict and violence, did you know the average length of time a refugee has been displaced is between 10 years and 26 years? (Brookings) Not only is restoring welcome the right thing to do as humans and as Americans, this week's meetings affirmed that I am not alone in believing that "it is vital to our nation".
Next to voting, calling or writing your elected representatives is the best way to influence how America will uphold our value and tradition of "welcoming the oppressed".
Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost. - Ronald Reagan
For details click the link below:Afghan Adjustment Act Tool Kit
Imagine being a skilled professional–a doctor even–respected in your field. And then war erupts, displacing you from your home, your family, your livelihood, your identity. When such a physician arrives in the United States, their credentials and expertise are erased and they must study for, and pass three United States Medical Licensure Exams (USMLEs), each of which involves fees and lengthy study programs. In addition, they must complete a residency program which are extremely competitive. Given the low-income, high-living expense lifestyles refugee doctors face upon arrival, these are steep barriers to overcome. TSOS is working to make these obstacles surmountable.
On June 24, 2023, TSOS had the opportunity to join with NoVA Friends of Refugees and other organizations at the One Journey Festival, a celebration of unity, diversity, and refugee contributions and talent. It was so fun.
When describing the work I do here at TSOS, I often say, we try to help people “step into each other’s stories.” Lately, I’ve been doing more of that myself.