In November 2016, Americans will vote on the next leader of the United States to guide future policy and shape the political course of the country. In every democracy, voters are held equally accountable for the fate of the country, along with the leaders they elect.
The most significant fulcrum of change is a combination of knowledge and informed action.
The Karibu News Campaign Series aims to bring light to the issues of this presidential election, particularly those affecting Buffalo’s immigrant and refugee community.
In Part 1 of the series, we asked three community members for their opinion on the issues being presented by presidential candidates.
Interview 1 – Zimbabwean Asylum-Seeker (requested name be omitted)
Karibu News: Do you have any general perceptions of immigration issues addressed during the campaign so far?
Zimbabwean Asylum-Seeker: I am going through the channel legally and I came to this country two years ago, and I’ve not even been invited for an interview (to decide his asylum case). And the moment the president talked last December of the executive order, attention was shifted to the illegal immigrants so that they can get work papers.
And the person who is going through the channels—myself—was put on hold. I also want my family to come here, and my family is out there. Am I happy with that?
KN: What are the most important immigration issues the candidates need to address?
ZAS: Donald Trump is coming out guns blazing. He wants to build a wall. He wants to outlaw birthright citizenship, but I don’t know about that. The real issue is: Have you secured the border? And making sure that those people who deserve citizenship get it in a timely way. Part of this talk should include time frames. When someone is running away from something, basically that person is traumatized. So if we keep that person hanging, we are not helping in any way.
KN: As some candidates seem to have anti-immigrant overtones in their speech, do you feel directly threatened by this rhetoric?
ZAS: Some of their fathers flew here and became Americans by choice. They just think they are better immigrants than the most recent ones. We need to realize that immigrants are not a bad end. Immigrants contribute to this economy. The example of me, at the job where I’m working, I’ve never even called in sick a single day, or arrived to work late, not even five minutes. It’s not because I’m afraid of losing the job, it’s just the ethic. So that’s something we need to realize, and stop the hate speech. Especially Mr. Trump. Hate speech only achieves hate being experienced on the street. Kids around will start thinking, “All the problems around the U.S. are from immigrants.”
Interview 2 – Nabil Aljiburi (Jericho Road Community Health Center IT Manager)
KN: What’s your opinion of how immigration issues have been addressed so far?
NA: I think Mr. Trump has overloaded the story, and I believe he forgot how many immigrants are in this country and what they are doing for this country. They are not just here to collect money. They are also taxpayers, doctors, professors.
KN: Given the recent comments of both presidential candidate Ben Carson and the Donald Trump supporter in New Hampshire, do you perceive any themes of Islamophobia?
NA: Well there is. I’m not going to deny this. Muslims are a billion plus people. If we have two thousand (radicals) from a billion, you can’t judge all Muslims as terrorists.
KN: Is there any way candidates can combat this type of language?
NA: Well, any candidate who talks this way is not going to be the winner because the Muslim community is large and registered to vote. If I see you insulting my religion and my belief, I’m going to vote against you.
KN: Will this rhetoric actually cause people to come out and vote?
NA: When I lived in Holland, where I am also a citizen, we experienced this kind of talk. So the Mosque, who is not supposed to talk of politics, encouraged all the people to go out and vote for the other (candidate). For my peers here, this has not happened yet, but maybe because this is a new issue.
KN: What other important issues need to be addressed?
NA: The quality of life here. Discuss the jobs, there are a lot of people on welfare and employment and they are willing to do anything. They are not happy living on welfare.
Interview 3 – Bishnu Adhilkari (Journey’s End Refugee Services Case Worker) and Khem Khanal (Bhutanese Hindu Priest)
KN: Why is it important for current and former immigrants to follow presidential issues?
BA: The president is a very important person, always taking care of us. Even when in the refugee camp, the U.S. was taking care of us. We are not born in this nation, but we are subjects.
KN: Why are immigration issues important for the president to address?
BA: It is important to create a peaceful environment here. Also, this is a nation of immigrants.
KN: What are some of your needs that presidential candidates must address?
BA: The culture. We need government to help us to preserve our culture. For example, after any funeral, every Bhutanese Hindu needs to take off 9 days from work. But how are we going to do this? We need the time off. Even unpaid time.
KN: Do you think your community is involved in the political process? What are some obstacles?
KK: The education. We didn’t receive it in when we were waiting in the refugee camps. I was there for 14 years waiting.
We need candidates to come to us and tell us what the issues are. Tell us and then we decide who is the best person. Nobody comes to us.