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How to Be an Ally to Immigrants

I am so honored to be speaking here today as an ally who stands in solidarity with refugees and immigrants of any status. Especially in this political climate, it is so important for us all to open our ears and our hearts to listen to the stories and experiences of those new to our country. Even if they do not reflect our own stories, it is imperative to recognize that we are a part of their lives and they of ours.

We participate and depend upon economic, political, and social systems that oppress people and then even blame them for the injustices they face. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves and understand how our own privilege depends upon that injustice. We can use that privilege to turn the conversation away from xenophobia and outright racism and give voice to those who are often unheard. We can counter stereotypes and myths with the stories of our friends and allies. We can be active, on social media, in rallies, in our volunteer work, in our workplaces, in the classroom, and in our personal lives.

We must walk in solidarity—we must be willing to listen and to change. When people are so willing to see what refugees and immigrants TAKE from “us” (whoever that means), we must see how much we RECEIVE, how much we can learn, the meaningful connections we can make, and the rich possibilities that our diversity gives to us and our children. Every time we humanize the targets of hatred and discrimination, we challenge others to reflect upon themselves.

We know that people are so much more likely to act for justice when they have a personal connection to those for whom they choose to fight. Listen carefully and spread this flame of change. As an ally, it can seem daunting or scary to talk about issues we may not understand fully or that we may not have experienced ourselves. We may worry that we will say the wrong thing, or try to be something we are not. And we probably will sometimes, but that is a way to stretch and grow and develop real relationships. If we believe that diversity makes us stronger, we have to be willing to risk the discomfort it can create. We have to sit with feelings that ask us to question our belief systems, our worldview, and our privilege. Walking in solidarity means that we risk embarrassment or having to say sorry, but the stakes are large and we are better people for it. How will we get things right if we never know what’s wrong?

So allies, thank you for coming out to learn and to act. It is so important—taking time to come to events like tonight’s is so important in the fight for social justice. We are doing the slow, hard, and painful work of social change, but it is our mission at Gonzaga and our impetus as human beings. It is a both a pleasure and a blessing to stand in solidarity with everyone here tonight.

This speech was delivered at an Immigrants Are a Blessing Not a Burden launch event at Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington. Nearly 100 students and faculty gathered to celebrate the gifts that immigrants are to their communities and to change the conversation about immigrants in the US. Are you interested in organizing a Blessing Not Burden event in your community? If you would like to learn more about the campaign or future events, contact Kelsey Herbert at


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