In 1938, when my father was nine years old, he and my grandparents emigrated to the United States from Hungary, fleeing the advancing Nazi terror. They then spent their lifetimes fighting for human and civil rights, believing deeply that each and every one of us has the right to live free from fear and oppression. Today, we find ourselves fighting oppression not at the hands of a dangerous foreign power, but from the fearful and prejudiced impulses of our own government and some of our fellow citizens.
It bears repeating—again and again and again—that America is mostly a nation of immigrants. Every day, people come here seeking the promise of freedom and a better life for themselves and their families. Immigration is not America’s problem; it is our strength.
Recently, President Trump issued executive orders targeting immigrants, refugees and Muslims that will take us back to shameful chapters of our history, not move us forward. In the face of threats and attacks on our deepest values, we must redouble our commitment. We must fight any effort to roll back sanctuary protections for immigrant families and communities. We must resist attempts to turn us against one another or to exploit fears of those who look or worship differently than we do. We must say no to using local law enforcement to tear families apart, and stand against any policy that denies talented young immigrants their dreams.
Immigrants’ rights is a critical economic issue. In California, nearly 10 million immigrants call the state home, and immigrant workers comprise more than one-third of California’s labor force. This is also a public safety issue. Pushing immigrants back into the shadows by driving a wedge of fear between immigrants and law enforcement puts every community at risk. Above all, however, it is a human rights issue. Immigrants are our neighbors, co-workers, family members, and friends. They are us. And we refuse to leave them to the mercy of cruel, unjust and unconstitutional immigration policies.
We all must support local, state and national leaders who are standing strong with immigrant communities. We owe a debt of gratitude to the lawyers who are fighting back in the courts and at airports, and the thousands who are protesting injustice in cities around the country. At Rosenberg Foundation, we applaud our colleagues in philanthropy who are responding nimbly and quickly to the needs of immigrant communities and advocates. In the weeks and months ahead, to protect progress and advance justice, we will have to rely on the strength of our convictions and the power of the courts, of our communities, and of tireless advocates and organizers. This year, the Rosenberg Foundation is committed to increasing our funding for immigrants’ rights by at least 50 percent, supporting courageous work in policy advocacy, deportation defense, community organizing, communications and litigation.
Moving forward, this fight will demand a lot from us. Today, it demands that all of us, in every community, every sector and every neighborhood, join together and flex California’s powerful collective muscle.
This is not business as usual. This fight will not be easy or comfortable and it may require institutional and personal risk. But as Dr. King taught us, the ultimate measure is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where we stand during times of challenge and controversy.
Every one of us knows and cares for our immigrant neighbors, and they are not alone. We will stand shoulder to shoulder to protect them—and to protect our common values of inclusion, freedom, opportunity and justice.