Immigrant Is Not A Bad Word: Why You Should Show Up To Rally On May Day

What if we’re losing momentum in our fight against Trump and his policies?
04/17/2017 09:35 pm ET Updated Apr 18, 2017
2006 immigrant rally on May Day
Getty Images
2006 immigrant rally on May Day

Let’s be real. Every single track on the Hamilton mixtape is amazing, but there’s one song that has always resonated with me the most. The song is, “Immigrants,” and it catches your attention before it even begins with the following line: “It’s really astonishing that in a country founded by immigrants, immigranthas somehow become a bad word.”

The sad part is, that statement was just as true in Hamilton’s time as it is right now. It shouldn’t be, and that’s why we need to do something about it.

On May 1, cities around the country will be rallying for May Day, a day in which demonstrations are held to support worker and immigrant rights. In 2006, over 1.5 million people participated. This year, with the national administration’s increased hostility towards immigrants, that number of participants could certainly surpass the 2006 number.

That is, if you show up.

When I recently told a friend about a rally in Connecticut to defend immigrant rights, she said, “It feels like we’re losing momentum, like less and less people are showing up.”

Someone had finally said my worst fears aloud. What if we’re losing momentum in our fight against Trump and his policies? I wake up every morning angry at the news and I admit I am tired. I’m tired of reading more about how Trump is destroying the values and beliefs this country is built on. I’m tired of hearing about violence against minorities. I’m tired of the hate.

But I am reminded of this, we’re all American and as Americans, it’s in our nature to fight and right the wrongs. I would like to note that I’m defining an American as someone who defends the values and ideas this country represents itself to be. Freedom. Equality for all. The acceptance of differences. Embracing Differences. Opportunity. For that reason, the word immigrant and American go hand in hand. Those two words are identical twins, I can’t tell them apart. Immigrants are Americans, and as Americans, we don’t remain quiet and we certainly don’t stay down even when the odds look slim. I’m not giving up on my country. I’m not done fighting for it.

When you think about it, immigrants are the roots of our country. Just like there’s no tree without roots, there’s no America without immigrants. And if you even try to take out the roots, the tree will not survive. America will not survive without immigrants. Immigrants are the only ones willing to get their hands, knees, and elbows dirty to get the job done. Immigrants are the ones that work long hours with little pay. Immigrants are the janitors who mop up the mess on the floor only to have it walked on again by a wealthy entitled man whose shoes just happen to drag a mess of mud.

If you ask any immigrant why they decided on moving to America, they will tell you that they wanted to better their lives and the lives of their family. They will tell you that they heard it was the land of opportunity and freedom. They will tell you that they heard it was the place where you can make your dreams come true. My parents can testify to that.

My father, sister, and I riding the New York subway.
Maria Mahmood
My father, sister, and I riding the New York subway.

My father left Pakistan with literally nothing but the clothes on his back and dreams in his heart to immigrate to Brooklyn, New York when he was in his 20’s. My mother also left her home in the Dominican Republic in her 20’s and found her way to New York to join her sisters who had immigrated years before.

My parents didn’t just immigrate to America to better their own lives, they wanted to make sure that when they had children, their lives would be better too. Because of them, I never had to experience starvation, dehydration, or illness without hope of care. I never had to walk several miles to attend school like my dad. I never had to split one egg for dinner like my mom. Instead, I have a bed to sleep in, food to eat, water to drink, and many, many more opportunities that I wouldn’t have had the luck of having if it wasn’t for my parents taking a leap of faith and immigrating to America. My sister and I are as successful as we are because of our parents and I am eternally grateful for them.

My mother and I celebrating my birthday.
Raja Mahmood
My mother and I celebrating my birthday.

I am beyond proud to be the daughter of immigrants. I know the definition of hard work because of them. So, I’m rallying because I’m want to thank my parents. I’m rallying because we need to send a message to the national administration that his discriminatory policies towards immigrants are ones that Americans find deplorable and outrageous. I’m rallying because I want to let immigrants know that I stand with them, that I’m fighting for them.

Of course, many people pose as the devil’s advocate saying, “Rallying doesn’t even do anything.”

Oh, but it does.

You see, rallying sends a message. I know that thousands and thousands of American people support woman’s rights because I saw thousands and thousands of people march across the country for the Women’s Day March. The march sent a message to everyone watching that a majority of the United States does not agree with our president when it comes to women’s rights issues. Now we need to send the same message that we care about immigrants, that we care about our fellow Americans.

I know my America and my America consist of diversity. My America is full of respect and acceptance for everyone regardless of their background. My America is full of love.

And to those people who say, “This won’t change anything,” well, I borrow my response from the lyrics of one of Lin Manuel’s famous Hamilton songs:

Immigrants, we get the job done.

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