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In sharp contrast to RNC, DNC embraced immigrants as part of America
At a time when the nativist backlash on the right is pulling the Republican Party in the wrong direction on immigration, it was notable and welcome that the Democratic Party put the stories of immigrants front and center throughout their convention and rightfully portrayed immigrants as already part of America. Meanwhile, immigration policy reforms were featured as a top priority for Democrats and recognized as an essential building block of the larger optimistic and inclusive vision of America depicted throughout the proceedings.
These developments are a sign of the immigrant rights movement’s success, with many Democrats now realizing that instead of a “problem” to be “solved,” immigrants are a welcome part of our nation.
The change is clear, and now the pro-immigration movement will make sure the welcoming rhetoric is matched with real follow-through on concrete policies.
As we take stock of the two starkly different visions of America on display at the two parties’ conventions and note what’s at stake in this November’s elections, it is clear that the personal stories of immigrants and immigrant families were among the most powerful – and quintessentially American moments of the Democratic convention.
Khizr Khan: Perhaps one of the convention’s most powerful immigrant stories came from Khizr Khan, whose son Humayun was a captain in the U.S. army and was killed in Iraq. Khan described how his family came to the United States, “empty handed” with a belief in American democracy. Said Khan, “If it was up to Donald Trump, [Humayun] never would have been in America…Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. Have you [Trump] ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan said. “Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing. And no one. We cannot solve our problems by building walls, or sowing division. We are better together.” Watch the full speech here.
Lorella Praeli: Another iconic moment came from Lorella Praeli, the Latino Outreach Director for the Clinton Campaign, who came to the U.S. with her family from Peru as a child to seek medical treatment after a traumatic car accident caused her to lose a leg. Said Praeli, “When I think about our American story, I believe it was born in the hearts of my parents that night as they stood over my hospital bed. Back in Peru, my mother, Chela, was a psychologist. But here in America, she’s worked cleaning houses for the last 17 years, from morning to night, carrying the American spirit in her heart. She, like so many millions of parents across this country, worked so that my sister and I could have a full life. She has taught me to never give up, to believe in my dreams, and to fight to achieve them. In short, it was my undocumented mother that taught me what it is to be an American.” Watch the full speech here.
Karla and Francisca Ortiz: 11-year old Karla Ortiz, an American citizen in a mixed status immigration family, also took the stage with her undocumented immigrant mother, Francisca. Karla’s personal reflections about her family stole the show and underscored that the immigration debate is personal, not an abstract policy issue, for millions of families in America. Said Karla: “I don’t feel brave every day. On most days I’m scared that at any moment my mom and my dad will be forced to leave … And I wonder what if I come home and find it empty?” [Hillary Clinton] “wants me to have the worries of an 11 year old, not the weight of the world on my shoulders.” Watch the full speech here.
Astrid Silva: Prominent Nevada-based Dreamer and immigrant advocate Astrid Silva also gave a powerful speech contrasting the two presidential candidates’ views toward immigrants by saying, “When Donald Trump talks about deporting 11 million people, he’s talking about ripping families apart – separating families like mine … Hillary Clinton understands that this is not who we are as a country…. I know she will fight to keep our families together.” Watch the full speech here.