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Impeachment and the Travel Ban – Impact on Sonoma County

On the 18th of December, 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, was impeached by a vote in the House of Representatives. Contrary to popular belief, a president being impeached is NOT the same as them being removed from office. Donald Trump will face trial in the Senate, who will determine whether he is unfit enough to be removed from office. Since 2017, citizens of Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya have been banned from entering the United States. While the ban officially exempts those who are visiting immediate relatives as well as international students, large amounts of international students from Iran were recently denied boarding to their flights because their visas were cancelled. If Trump is removed from office, the travel ban will remain, and Mike Pence will most definitely uphold it. However, with the 2020 election coming up, it is up to us, the American people, to ask our democratic candidates the following question: Will you unconditionally repeal the un-American Muslim Ban?

Currently, congress is preparing a bill called the National Origin Based Anti-discrimination for Nonimmigrants Act, whose sponsors include candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Said act will prevent any type of nationality based refusal of entry to the US.

While the ban is aimed at Muslim majority nations, the impact of the ban can be felt in our own community here in Sonoma County. The county is home to a sizable population of Iranians, the group hit the hardest by the ban. Local resident Aida Dargahi helped her brother in law apply for a B-2 visa to visit her family in Petaluma in 2017, and he came very close to receiving his visa to travel to California. However, the travel ban hit the Tehran based engineer, who neither received a visa nor a refund of his $160, a significant sum for someone living in Iran. At Sonoma State University, a similar narrative exists. The electrical engineering department is run by Fareed Farahmand, an immigrant from Iran, and employs multiple hardworking Iranian professors who work hard every day to make this country a better, smarter place. Farahmand himself expressed his frustration at the travel ban, claiming that it has greatly reduced the arrival of Iranian international students, who are known for being hardworking scholars. My own father arrived in the United States in 1978 from Iran as an international student, completing high school and going on to graduate from San Francisco State University. He currently holds a PhD and works as a professor, educating and enlightening the youth of our county. Had there been a travel ban in place in 1978, he would not be here today, making a contribution to the society of the United States, a nation founded and advanced by immigrants.

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Compiling a list of CVA violators

With the current policy of the Trump administration, ICE is pressuring local sheriffs to provide information to ICE to support their attack on immigrants and their communities in the USA. In 2017, former governor of California Jerry Brown signed the California Values Act, intended to prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE. Despite this, numerous sheriffs in northern and southern California are continuing to cooperate with ICE in defiance of California law. While the Sonoma County Sheriff doesn’t cooperate with ICE, neighboring Marin County passionately cooperates with ICE to oppress immigrant communities. At socoIMM, we believe that immigrants have the right to be safe in their homes and their communities, which is why we are actively working to create a list on our website where we document all the sheriffs departments that violate the CVA and cooperate with ICE. If you are aware of a local sheriff that cooperates with ICE, please contact us at socoimmigrants@gmail.com so we can list said county on our active list. Together we have the power to hold these violators accountable.

The following list is under construction and constantly being updated thanks to YOUR input!

Marin County Sheriff – http://iceoutofmarin.org/marin-sheriff/ (information about the sheriff’s countless violations of human rights, including but not limited to deporting immigrants based on charges and not convictions, separation of families, dismissal of allegations, and creation of a pipeline from jail to deportation)

Sheriff Robert T. Doyle
E rdoyle@marinsheriff.org

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Why Art and Activism?

Art is not the first thing that is associated with activism, but its value in social justice movements, revolutions, uprisings,  and in any other social change, is priceless. Perhaps the most obvious example is propaganda: compelling images blending and bending the truth with lies in just the right manner so the lines are blurred and all we see is what they want us to see. Its charm is its repeatability, over and over we can be bombarded with a message on every wall, pole, website, and magazine so that it imprints in our brain forever. Take Mao’s bright god-like depiction on countless posters, or “Grandpa Lenin” holding children and promising people “Peace, Land, and Bread.” Not to mention the Office of War Information, created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to create and spread propaganda across the nation in support of World War II.

Long live the victory of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line (1968).

This demonstrates that art has in fact been hugely involved and influential in some of the most major events in the history of mankind. However, these examples do render art to be sinister- full of dark powers that blind us from reality. I believe that it does not have to be, and should not be. But The Monarch Project uses art for the exact same reason: its power to tell stories unlike anything else. Divisive times like ours are full of interpretations and regurgitation of information that is designed to draw deep and dark lines between people. We are flooded with sound bites, entire crises and histories are stuffed into a fifteen-second video splattered across the media. We have forgotten to think for ourselves and have lost any slivers of our attention span, craving quick and effortless understanding and action. This does not leave enough room for nuance and detail. For multi-layered problems and multiple perspectives, it can be tragic. One story, easily understood and spread, comes to represent an entire population of people. This is especially convenient if one is trying to demonize a group, and use one intimidating narrative that deems all individuals in that group criminals, aliens, rapists, and dangers to America. This is what the actions and rhetoric used by the current administration have and continue to create with regard to the immigration crisis.

It would be naive of me to say that “art is above it all” or that it is the remedy to this problem, but if used correctly, it can change perceptions, optics, and narratives by providing perspective in a nonjudgemental, non-accusatory, and open manner. Its simplicity and beauty can even become almost disarming. It allows everyone, regardless of their preconceived notions, beliefs, and backgrounds to better understand others and their stories. Of course, there is no guarantee as to who will truly be changed or moved by artwork, that is part of the very nature of art after all, however it most certainly is more effective than repeating the same heated arguments over and over.

Artist: Shepard Fairey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ability to connect and reach out is vital to the success of any movement, especially to one as polarizing and controversial as the immigrants’ rights movement. So, we have placed art as the root of our project, using its beautiful powers to use to redefine conversations about immigrants by reminding everyone of that at the root of the debate, the political games, and ICE raids, are humans.

Thus, art and activism can go hand in hand, and when they do, innovative and powerful projects like The Monarch Project are born, with the potential to create real and beautiful change in the world.

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Share your story!

We are actively looking for immigrants who are willing to share their stories with us. One of our goals is to show who immigrants are, so that people may better understand what it means to be one in the US. However, we also understand that this is something that is personal, and often times a risk for those who are undocumented, thus we will not share identities or any personal information unless the individual allows us to. 

If you or someone you know is an immigrant (documented or undocumented) who wants to submit a story to be displayed here, please contact our team at socoimmigrants@gmail.com

Your story may be shared through The Butterfly Project, where each butterfly represents the story of an immigrant.

Another way these stories may be shared are through one of our short films. An example of such a film is found below. The following video highlights the importance of DACA to young undocumented immigrants in our communities and the importance of the rights granted to them by DACA to study, work, and reside legally to have a better future.