June is Immigrant Heritage Month! #celebrateimmigrants
By: Annika Wolfe/Arab America Contributing Writer
This June is the 6th Annual Immigrant Heritage Month (IHM) in the United States! It is a “nationwide effort to celebrate immigrants and share inspirational stories of immigration in America.” The month “provides an opportunity for Americans to reflect on their family’s heritage and celebrate the countless contributions immigrants have made and continue to make to the United States.” It is a time to come together as one to recognize, support, and accept our wonderful and diverse immigrant community. No matter where they come from, why they moved to the United States, or what they believe in, all immigrants should be welcomed and accepted for who they are in this country.
Immigrant Heritage Month (IHM) began during President Obama’s second term in 2013. His administration acknowledged that immigrants are an integral and vital part of our society and should be treated as such. For the second annual IHM, the president said that “one of the remarkable things about America is that nearly all of our families originally came from someplace else. Immigration is part of the DNA of this great nation. It’s a source of our strength and something we all can take pride in. That’s why during Immigrant Heritage Month, we are encouraging you to share your American story.”
Governor Gavin Newsom of California issued a proclamation earlier this week stating, “Heritage Month is a time to remember that nearly all of us can trace our heritage to another nation. We must never forget that we are here because our ancestors boldly chose to believe in the promise of this place. As we honor the courage and bravery that it took for our ancestors to start life anew, let us strive to see those same qualities in those who make the same journeys today.”
It is estimated that almost four million Arab immigrants reside in the United States. “Contrary to popular assumptions or stereotypes, the majority of Arab Americans are native-born, and nearly 82% of Arabs in the U.S. are citizens.” Arab Americans live in all 50 states, but many of them live in large communities in California, Michigan, and New York. Arab Americans and immigrants are proud of both their Arab and American identities, despite how they are treated by the current administration, portrayed in the media, and the many false and negative stereotypes placed on them. Over the past year, a record number of Arab Americans are running for elected office and are coming together to support and encourage one another to make their voices heard in their country.
Immigrants in the U.S
The United States is a nation of immigrants, almost every one of us had ancestors and family members make the journey to America. In fact, one in four people living in the United States is either an immigrant themselves, or has a parent who is an immigrant! They also have a lower crime, arrest, and incarceration rate than American born residents. Immigrants have made tremendous contributions to American culture, the economy, and society. Many of the practices, traditions, and foods we consider “American” were brought by immigrants. They are incredibly hard-working, are proud to live in the United States and exemplify American values.
Immigration Heritage Month in Washington DC
From claims that immigrants from Mexico are criminals and animals to issuing a travel ban on predominately Muslim countries to allowing ICE to separate children from their families at the border; the current president, Donald Trump, is no friend of the immigrant community. However, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement this week on Immigrant Heritage Month:
“When we celebrate the heritage of immigrants throughout the month of June, we celebrate past generations of immigrants who helped build and shape our nation as well as the resilience and strength of immigrants today. We also recommit ourselves to fighting back against the Trump Administration’s efforts to change the very nature of America by closing our doors to immigrants and by mistreating those seeking refuge on our shores. The forced separation of migrant families, threats to close the border, and efforts to make it harder for family members of immigrants to join them here all undermine our nation’s immigrant heritage and threaten the growth of our economy, to which immigrants contribute so much.
“Contrary to what President Trump and his allies contend, immigrants make America stronger and greater, fueling innovation and the exchange of ideas. Immigrant-driven businesses create jobs in communities across our country, and immigrants serve with distinction in our military. I’m proud to serve alongside immigrants in the House Democratic Caucus, who contribute to policymaking with their first-hand experience, and as the son of an immigrant myself, I am proud to work with them to advance policies that recognize the contributions of immigrants and our nation’s immigrant heritage.
“Let us never forget that our country was built by immigrants and will continue to be in the future. I join in celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month and thank the immigrants and immigrant communities that continue to move our country forward.”