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6 immigrants talk about the anxiety of living in Trump’s America

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Bella Lucy/Vox

Originally published by VOX

Even before the Trump administration announced its support for a House Republican plan to halve the number of legal immigrants allowed in the US, many immigrants were wondering if they had a future here.

“Since the election, I have never felt safe,” said Aurea Galvan, a 25-year-old undocumented college student who is protected from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Trump remains determined to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and plans to hire 10,000 more immigration officers. He (temporarily) banned refugees from six Muslim-majority countries. And last week, his administration said that police departments that do not cooperate with immigration officials will lose access to some federal grants.

This has alarmed people who once viewed the United States as a safe haven. Six immigrants from different countries, with different immigration statuses, spoke with me at length about what it’s like to be foreign-born right now in Trump’s America.

“It’s a country that has given us so much,” said Maria, an undocumented hotel housekeeper living in Kentucky, “even though we are afraid to live here.”

Several said they were afraid — of being stopped and deported, or of the broader consequences of the anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim sentiment coming from the White House.

Do they feel targeted? “When you look at the television and you hear the rhetoric every day about Muslims being terrorists, then yes,” said Seydi Sarr, a green card holder from Senegal. “When you have to explain to your child that Muslims are not terrorists, and why their faith is a good faith, then yes.”

As they carry on with their lives, they are wondering if they have a future here in the United States, and whether this country really is the land of opportunity they once believed it was.

Several are prepared to leave or are making plans in case they are forced out. One is planning a run for office: “I think it’s impossible for us who are new immigrants to feel detached,” said Hongbin Gu, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, who is thinking of a run for town council. “We are starting to realize that democracy is actually something very fragile.”

The following transcripts have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Bella Lucy/Vox

The DREAMer: Aurea Galvan

Galvan, 25, is an undocumented college student originally from Guanajuato, Mexico. Her parents brought her to the United States in 1998 when she was 7 years old. She lives with her parents and three brothers in Manassas, Virginia.

Galvan is temporarily protected from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. Trump originally vowed to end the program, but in June, John Kelly, now chief of staff and then the head of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a memo saying it would stay in effect — for now.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Can you describe the moment you realized you were undocumented?

Aurea Galvan

I was a junior in high school, and we were taking driver’s ed. Everyone’s really excited about going to the DMV and getting their driver’s license, and I was studying to go get my driver’s license too. My parents said: You can’t get your driver’s license. And I was like, why not? They said I needed a Social Security number for that and that I didn’t have that. They said things were going to get more complicated because we don’t have documents. I started to understand what was going on

When I was applying for college, that’s when it really, really hit me. I remember going through the application and then it said a Social Security number was required. That was a really, really hard realization. So I actually didn’t apply. The application wouldn’t go through. I ended up working at a local restaurant for a few years — they didn’t check my ID.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

So it’s been five years since DACA went into effect. How has that impacted your life?

Aurea Galvan

My life has changed dramatically. I am able to go to college now and pay in-state tuition, and I have a driver’s license — things that a lot of people take for granted. My mom doesn’t drive because she doesn’t have a driver’s license, so I’m able to take her to the store. I have a younger brother who I can take to soccer practice.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

DACA was never meant to be a permanent solution, and could be repealed at any time by President Trump. How do you handle the uncertainty?

Aurea Galvan

I have to keep renewing it every two years, and you always wonder, are they going to let me have it again? What’s going to happen with school? What about my job? When Obama was in office, I realized that he’s not going to take it away anytime soon.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

President Trump campaigned to end the program. What was going through your head at the time?

Aurea Galvan

At first I thought, there’s no way that he’s going to win the election. Then when it actually happened, I remember I was sitting here on my couch. I stayed up late, until 3 in the morning, watching, and I remember just crying because I was so scared. I’m so scared of what could happen next. I’m definitely afraid for my parents, who are undocumented.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you still feel that way? Trump still hasn’t made any move to end DACA.

Aurea Galvan

Since the election, I have never felt safe. At that point, I was already at George Mason University and I found a group of students like me, the Mason DREAMers. So I became more involved with them after the election. That community helps.

I remember the day after the election, I had to go to class, but I didn’t want to go to school. I had been up all night and I was crying. But then I remembered that this is why my parents brought me here, and I just became so determined. I thought, I’m not going to let this man stop me from receiving an education, so I’m going to go to school. So that’s what I did.

I just take every day one day at a time, and that’s really helped. But there’s still a sense of fear in the back of my mind.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

During and after the election, it seems like people felt more free to express their anti-immigrant feelings. Do you think something has shifted? Do you feel welcome here?

Aurea Galvan

My parents always said this was such a racist country and I never saw it. And I think I was looking at it through a completely different filter. In my mind, I thought everyone was great and there is not a bad person here. So I gave people the benefit of the doubt.

But then during the campaign, I started to see a completely different side. I started seeing when I was scrolling through Facebook and looking at all the comments people were making and I thought, wow, we really do live in a country where people do not like undocumented immigrants. It was really hard for me to understand why they don’t. I have friends who are really, really shocked that I’m undocumented. I’m not out there advertising it, but it’s important for people to know who we are.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

You have started to be more vocal about being undocumented.

Aurea Galvan

When I first found out that we were undocumented, my parents told us: You can never say that you’re undocumented. But if everyone just keeps it to themselves, how are we going to progress as a community? How are we going to have our voices heard if we don’t speak about it?

Alexia Fernández Campbell

When you’re in bed at night imagining your future, what do you see yourself doing? Do you see yourself in the United States or back in Mexico?

Aurea Galvan

I definitely see myself here. I graduate in the fall and I’m going to apply for a few grad schools in Texas and California and in the area. I want to get a master’s in forensic psychology. I want to work in the juvenile system, and I want to work with depressed folks in the juvenile justice system. And then, after five years, I think we’ll see what happens after that.

Bella Lucy/Vox

The green card holder: Seydi Sarr

Sarr is a 42-year-old immigrant rights advocate from Senegal who has been living in the United States since 2003. She lives with her 12-year-old American daughter in Detroit.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Why did you move to the United States?

Seydi Sarr

I am a Senegalese woman and went to college in Paris. Having French citizenship, I didn’t need to have a visa to visit the United States. After I met my husband, we dated for two years and we wanted to get married and have a family. So we got married, and through marriage, I had the opportunity to get a temporary green card and then a 10-year green card.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

You’re Muslim and an immigrant. Trump made attacks on both groups a central part of his campaign. What was going through your mind at the time?

Seydi Sarr

When he won, I was not really surprised. As a Muslim woman who came to the USA after 9/11, unfortunately I have already been made aware and subjected to a certain vision of what being a Muslim is, and that has not changed in anybody’s eyes. With the election and the campaign, the rhetoric become more vocal, and people felt empowered to no longer be civil or courteous and to just say what they feel. So as a country, we sat there, and people were not moved enough to stop it.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you feel like you have been directly attacked or targeted?

Seydi Sarr

When you look at the television and you hear the rhetoric every day about Muslims being terrorists, then yes. When you have to explain to your child that Muslims are not terrorists, and why their faith is a good faith, then yes. I don’t need someone to talk directly to me to feel bullied, or someone to pull off my head wrap.

When you see in the news houses of worship being raided and things like that — it’s about you and your faith. When you walk through a metal detector and there is your Quran in your bag, just like somebody would have their Bible in their bag, and then you get pulled aside to explain yourself — that’s personal.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you think there is any difference between the rhetoric before and now?

Seydi Sarr

Muslims who lived the 9/11 experience are now having flashbacks, because we lived the experience. When you talk about the depth of oppression, you don’t go around thinking, is this oppression harder or is this oppression nicer? When you go through hell, hell is hell. When you have already been pointed out as being the villain, you’re still the villain at the end of the day.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you feel welcome in the United States as an immigrant?

Seydi Sarr

I don’t think that my idea of what is welcoming and the United States’ idea of welcoming are the same. There are many conditions on welcoming someone here. The condition is to look a certain way, to talk with no accent, to be something that that person cannot be.

I cannot not be black. I am African. I shouldn’t have to explain why Muslim people are good people. But I still am expected to explain myself so that a person will think that I am a good person. If you have all these expectations that I need to fulfill before you welcome me, then are you really welcoming?

Have I met people who are totally giving and totally loving and have taken me in regardless of my accent and faith? Of course, I have had some of those encounters too. That’s the dichotomy. American society picks and chooses. Today, certain immigrants are good immigrants, depending on their faith, the color of their skin. That has always been the policy of American immigration.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What are your thoughts on the so-called Muslim ban? I know Senegal wasn’t on the list.

Seydi Sarr

Senegal doesn’t have to be on the list. All I have to have is a Muslim-sounding name. Customs and Immigration doesn’t ask me if I am from Somalia; he’s going to look at my name, my Quran, and he is going to react however he’s going to react because I’m Muslim. There is a lot of discretion left to those who apply that ban. You are putting a time bomb in the hands of folks you can’t vouch for.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Have you had to have a conversation with your daughter about the current politics?

Seydi Sarr

During the campaign, she was pissed about everything. She is black, she is Muslim, she was born and raised in the United States and she asked me, can we go live somewhere else? Can we go to Canada, to Montreal? That’s what she said the night of the election. And I said, why do you want to run away? She felt like she wasn’t safe. Not only because she is black, now she is black and Muslim, and now Trump is president.

She heard everything Trump said about Muslims, and that’s her reality. There is nothing I can do to change her reality. I just have to sit in that painful space with her and try to give her support.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Have your plans for the future changed at all?

Seydi Sarr

I think I am somehow responsible for creating the future I want for myself. So I’ve been wondering if it’s really worth it for me to stay. I am going to have to make that decision at some point or another. What is my tolerance level? How much more mental abuse can I take? When you hit your threshold, you are going to do something. Just like I can imagine a future here, I can imagine a future outside of here. I am not from here anyway, so I am free to come and stay and leave.

Bella Lucy/Vox

The undocumented immigrant: Maria

Maria 36, of Jalapa, Mexico, started working as a nanny when she was 9 years old and had her first child at 17. After her son’s father went to the US in 2000 in search of better opportunities, she paid a smuggler to take her and her son across the border in 2007; it took her three attempts to cross without being detained. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Louisville, Kentucky. This interview was translated from Spanish.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Why did you go to Kentucky? What was it like at the beginning?

Maria

I had an aunt and uncle who lived here, so they helped us find a place to live. It was hard because I wasn’t used to working in hotels. They would only give us only 15 minutes to clean a room. Sometimes when I was cleaning the rooms I felt like I was going to burst into tears, because it was too much and it was hard. But then I got used to it, and since I made enough money to survive, I didn’t suffer as much. I had enough money for food, to pay the rent.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What’s it like to live in Louisville without papers? How do people treat you?

Maria

Some people have yelled at me, pretty loudly, maybe because I can’t speak English very well. A few times, at work, I think they didn’t understand me or I didn’t understand them. They yell at me like, if I am in this country then I have to speak English, that kind of thing.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

President Trump plans to hire more 10,000 more immigration agents and step up deportations. Louisville isn’t a sanctuary city — are you worried that police will stop you and contact immigration officers?

Maria

I am worried sometimes that they will stop me in the street. I have a lot of faith in God, and every day I trust that God will help me get to where I am going and return safely. Nothing bad has happened to me so far. But I do get scared because I feel like I can’t go everywhere, especially if it’s a place with a lot of American people.

There are times when I go to a store and I get scared when people stare at us. One time, in our neighborhood, our kids went out for a walk and my youngest kid said that a woman yelled at him really loudly and said to leave the neighborhood or she would call the police.

But I have to go to work, you know? Because if we don’t work, then why are we even here? I also go to school here so I can learn English, because I’ve been humiliated so many times for not speaking English. Now I understand it a bit better.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What did you think when you heard Trump say that Mexicans are rapists and criminals?

Maria

I remember that. But I also remember him saying that the United States is for Americans and only Americans. That Americans are first. When people ask me what I think about the president, my opinion is that we are in a country that is not our country. It’s a country that has given us so much, even though we are afraid to live here. It’s still a country where we live three times better than we did back home, even if we could find work there. Here I feel more confident, like my children can thrive.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

When people say that you are taking jobs away from Americans, what do you think about that?

Maria

If I am working and other people don’t want to work, I don’t think that I am taking away their jobs. Other people don’t want to do the work that I am doing, so I am not taking away their jobs. I understand why people say this is not our country and we shouldn’t be here. I respect that, and it’s true. But there really is no other option for us. Even though it’s difficult here, it’s still so much better, and I don’t want to return no matter what.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What was your reaction to Trump’s victory in the election?

Maria

Honestly, I always thought he would win. I knew that there were a lot of racist people here and they wanted to finally let that out. So obviously they were going to vote for him.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you think the United States is a racist country?

Maria

I think maybe it’s always been racist, but people had been hiding how they feel. Many people will harass us, but a lot of people respect the law and would never do anything to hurt us. But I don’t know anymore — people feel a lot more freedom to express their contempt for us now.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

You live in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Did that make you wonder what people think about you?

Maria

I know that most people who live here voted for Trump, and in fact, the managers that I worked for voted for him too. They told us. One day one of them asked me what I thought about the fact that he had voted for Trump.

I said, I am not going to give my opinion because it’s your country and you decide who is your president. It may affect me, but time will go on and it could change. I can’t vote, so my own opinion doesn’t matter, I can’t change anything. That’s why I didn’t tell him how I really felt.

But honestly, I don’t think Trump is going to be able to accomplish everything he wants. And not all Americans think the same way he does. I really believe in God, and I don’t think God is going to let that happen.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Have your plans for the future and views about the United States changed?

Maria

Yes. Definitely. Now we are worried and afraid. When I worked at the hotel and left my house at 5 am, I was constantly afraid that someone could be watching me. Imagine, they could take me away. I have two sons — the youngest was born in the United States. I have talked to my eldest son and told him that he has to help me and take care of his younger brother if something happens to me. He is 20.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Does your 9-year-old son know that you’re undocumented?

Maria

He didn’t know before Trump was elected. He had never asked me and I never talked about it. But when Trump became president, he came home one day, they had said something at school, and he asked me: Mami, you have papers right? You have permission to be here with me, right? They’re not going to take you away and leave me behind, are they? I said no, they are not going to take me, but right now I don’t have papers. Then he asked me to explain to him why I needed papers to be in the United States. He got sad, and his eyes filled up with tears like he was going to cry.

I told him he didn’t need to be sad because nothing is going to happen. But I could tell that he saw things differently after that. He didn’t bring it up again, but I know things changed for him.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What would you tell President Trump if you had the chance to talk to him?

Maria

I would tell him to focus on the families, and remember that children really do need their parents around, because so many of our children are American. The children are the ones we all worry about.

Bella Lucy/Vox

The H-1B worker: Purva Gupta

Gupta is a 28-year-old entrepreneur from Jodhpur, India, who earlier this year launched a Silicon Valley startup called Lily — an app that helps women find flattering clothes — to tech industry fanfare. She got her H-1B work visa in October and lives with her husband in Palo Alto, California.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

How hard was it to get an H-1B visa for tech workers? The lottery fills up fast every year.

Purva Gupta

When I landed in Silicon Valley, I met with Unshackled Ventures, which is basically a fund that backs immigrant entrepreneurs. They helped me get my H-1B application and filed it for me the first year. It didn’t make the lottery that year, so I couldn’t do anything, because I couldn’t work on my husband’s student visa. The second year I applied, I got a visa in the lottery. It was a huge relief. My husband was about to graduate, and we both needed visas. Our lawyers were basically telling us that we should prepare to pack up our things. It was difficult.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

There has been a lot of criticism of the H-1B program with reports of companies laying off their American IT workers and replacing them with H-1B workers. What are your thoughts when you hear this?

Purva Gupta

I do think that there are companies trying to game the system with H-1B workers, but then people start to think that everyone is doing that — people like my husband and I who genuinely want to contribute to the economy. There are so many graduates who come to the US and spend a ton of money to do an MBA, and they should have the right to be able to explore a work opportunity after that.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Some might argue that only the wealthiest Indians can afford to go to Princeton or Yale — why should they get preference over workers who graduated from schools in India?

Purva Gupta

I don’t think that’s true. I know an awful lot of people who are taking out huge loans to go to school here. My husband took a huge loan for us turns out to come here and do this. What happens to those people? You get a loan for a US education and then you’re expected to go back and work in India and pay off that loan. That is very difficult to do in India.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

That seems like a huge gamble. Is it worth it?

Purva Gupta

It’s a huge risk. We’ve hustled hard to find opportunities so we can stay here, and we are now getting that opportunity on our own merit. I’ve spent enough sleepless nights trying to figure this all out. It’s mentally hard to always be thinking that you might have to leave the country in the next month or in four months. You’re constantly thinking about it, and as an entrepreneur there are already enough things to worry about as it is.

As the founder of the company, it’s so difficult for other people to take a bet on me as well. So it’s extra hard because I’m trying to build a business to first benefit American women, and I’ve already created seven American jobs. We have five American employees.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

President Trump has been very critical of the H-1B program and wants to limit legal immigration in general. What do you think about all this?

Purva Gupta

What really worries me is this whole portrayal of immigrants in this country, about immigrants taking jobs and stuff like that. Why aren’t we hearing about the flip side? What about the contributions that immigrants are making? More than 50 percent of Silicon Valley’s unicorn startups have one immigrant founder. Immigrants contribute more to the economy than they take away from it.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Have you experienced this on a personal level?

Purva Gupta

Silicon Valley as a whole has been very, very supportive. I have not personally heard or seen any kind of discrimination against me with respect to being an immigrant. What I did see, before I got my visa, was all of this uncertainty that investors would show toward me. What if you have to leave the country? That’s a very difficult part of building a company as an immigrant.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you ever think about what you would do if you couldn’t renew your H-1B?

Purva Gupta

I’ve had to think about plan B many times because of how precarious the visa situation was. I think it would be very sad to leave the platform that I created from scratch. I would feel that pain every single day. But at the same time, I think because of the entrepreneurial mindset I have, I would go launch a startup from anywhere. But I would really love to build it from here.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you think the United States is a country that welcomes immigrants? Or has it become more anti-immigrant?

Purva Gupta

For immigrants like me, I have been able to do what I wanted to do, even though it was a difficult path. I have not felt unwelcome. It’s too harsh to say it’s anti-immigrant. But at the same time, it has made the visa system incredibly difficult and challenging for people to come here legally. It almost seems like it was created in a way to discourage people like me from coming here. Not everyone is willing to put up with all that. But we want to add value to the country and the economy and create jobs.

Bella Lucy/Vox

The refugee: Rahmatullah Aka

Aka is a 29-year-old refugee from Bagram, Afghanistan, who worked for the US government to build an independent court system in Afghanistan. In 2015, he was granted a Special Immigrant Visa after his relatives were threatened and beaten as a result. He lives in Boston with two roommates.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Tell me a bit about your life before you came to the United States.

Rahmatullah Aka

I was working in Afghanistan with the US Embassy on a USAID program focused on building a judicial system in the country, working with the Afghan Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice. It was harder in the remote areas because the government has less influence and access. Sometimes we were building things, and then after[ward] they were demolished by the Taliban. We were ambushed when we were traveling; we were stopped and threatened and told that we could not go to certain districts.

I couldn’t trust my own neighbors because they have connections to the Taliban. So when they would ask my father what his son was doing, he had to lie and say that I was a literacy teacher. When they found out that I was working with the United States, my family was threatened a lot. They told my father that I had to stop. Then he got stopped on his motorbike and was beaten and they took his motorbike. So I had to move with my family to the city. That’s when I applied for the Special Immigrant Visa.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

So you got the visa in 2015 and moved to Boston by yourself. What was that like? How were you received here?

Rahmatullah Aka

I was welcomed here by the resettlement agency, by people in my neighborhood, but during the campaign and all the anti-immigrant comments, it reminded me of the process of applying for the visa. It was stressful to wonder what was going to happen. Not knowing if I was going to get the visa. Now I don’t know if I will be able to bring my parents here. Will I have a bright future here or not? All of this was going through my mind.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

There has been some backlash against Muslim refugees, especially after the Boston Marathon bombing. Do you feel welcome in Boston?

Rahmatullah Aka

When the campaign started to get heated and I was watching the media, I was scared. I thought maybe I will not be welcome here anymore. But then so many people went to the public square to protest the travel ban — thousands of people — and I began to feel more hopeful. I thought, there are so many people here raising their voices to support Muslims and immigrants here in the United States.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What was your reaction when Donald Trump won the election?

Rahmatullah Aka

I was worried that the process of bringing my family to the US was over. That there would be problems for me to apply for my citizenship. There were a lot of concerns.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

What are your thoughts about the United States now?

Rahmatullah Aka

I still have positive feelings. The Americans I worked with in Afghanistan have helped me and supported me. Not all people think the way Trump does. They support humanity and immigrants and the United States.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Is it worth it to live in the United States?

Rahmatullah Aka

Considering all the safety problems I had in Afghanistan, yes. Here I could leave work at 1 am and be okay. My mother got scared when I told her that. I said, Mom, this is not Afghanistan. This is the United States, and I am safe. Considering that last month there was a huge bomb in Kabul, near the office where I used to work, considering all those challenges, it is still worth it to be here.

Bella Lucy/Vox

The naturalized American: Hongbin Gu

Gu, from Shanghai, China, is a 49-year-old professor of psychiatry in the school of medicine at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and two daughters.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Tell me a bit about where you from and why you came to the United States.

Hongbin Gu

I came here to pursue my graduate studies in the United States. I came here post-June 4, 1989, you known, after the Tiananmen Square massacre. I think that played a bigger role for me wanting to come here. I just felt so disappointed in China’s political system, and I wanted to live in a country where people have the freedom to express their own opinions, where their voices will be respected and heard by their government.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Why did you decide to stay here after your got your degree? Why not move back to China?

Hongbin Gu

There are a lot more opportunities over here, and my husband and I are both academics. I think that the environment for doing research — independent research — is a lot better than the environment I would expect in China. Over there, there is too much government interference. And I have kids, and the education system here is a lot more open for children. In China there is too much emphasis on math or the basic facts and lots of memorizations and taking tests and exams. I want my kids to grow up in an environment where they can enjoy more freedom and critical thinking.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Immigration was such a big issue during the election and has become a major focus of the Trump administration. How do you interpret what’s happening?

Hongbin Gu

It was a pretty big shock, I would say, to see what was happening and hearing all the rhetoric coming from someone who’s running for the highest office of this country. Saying those anti-immigrant and anti-minority comments that I wouldn’t think was possible a few years ago. And then seeing that there was so much support for those kinds of rhetoric. It was a big shock to me.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Do you take it personally?

Hongbin Gu

I think it’s affecting me [on] a personal level. I think it’s impossible for us who are new immigrants to feel detached. We are starting to realize that democracy is actually something very fragile. I didn’t realize that two years ago. I think that even though we have traveled a long journey to finally reach where we are, sometimes we just take a lot of things for granted.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

How does this impact your view of the United States? Do you consider the United States a welcoming place for immigrants?

Hongbin Gu

I think that there are still lots of people that are welcoming of people of different colors and different origins and different religions, but it looks like there is actually quite a big section of the country that does not hold those same values.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

Now the Trump administration wants to cut legal immigration in half. That’s a pretty big change. What does it mean to you?

Hongbin Gu

I think everyone in this country who holds the value that all Americans should be able to live in this country and not be subjected to discrimination. For all of us, we need to take a more active role. That’s why I am planning to run for town council. We all have a duty to participate in this democracy and uphold the values that we cherish.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

North Carolina ended up voting overwhelmingly for Trump. Did that make you view your neighbors differently, your community differently after that?

Hongbin Gu

The people that voted for Trump, not all of them have these discriminative views. They just have their own financial problems or they cannot afford their insurance anymore. They feel like that the country is not going in the right direction. I think I can understand that they feel their jobs are under threat both from the new immigrants and from laborers in foreign countries — that their jobs are shifted out to foreign countries. So I think I understand that.

Alexia Fernández Campbell

So now what?

Hongbin Gu

I think we’re going through a battle to decide what this country actually stands for. I think for everyone in this country — immigrants and non-immigrants — it really comes down to what kind of values do you want this country to hold. For me it’s a country that is inclusive and that gives everyone the opportunity to achieve their American dream, as long as you are a law-abiding citizen and you’re willing to work hard. I think this is something that we all hold dear to our hearts when we decide to come to this country. So I think we just need to work harder to make sure this actually happens.

Read more: www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/4/16069926/immigrants-trump-america

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