So, as writers, what can we do? One important action is to tell the stories of immigrants to make it clear that (a) most are good people who come here to escape violence, poverty, or injustice and (b) their presence actually makes our nation stronger. Often they exemplify "American values" much better than those of us who sit on the couch watching politicians rant on TV. Whatever the political/legal impact of "sanctuary," writing about the lives of refugees can help build understanding and support, and two WWG members have been doing exactly that.
Mark Lyons has worked for years with immigrant Latino communities. His first book, Espejos y Ventanas/Mirrors and Windows, collected the self-told stories of Mexican farmworkers and their families in Pennsylvania. Now he has a new book, even more extraordinary: the story of a girl who fled Guatemala at age 14 and made her way alone across the whole of Mexico, more than 2,000 miles--dodging police, escaping drug gangs, scrounging for cash and food--to enter the US illegally. Liliana Velásquez is her name, and she recounted her life in interviews with Mark over many months. He then transcribed, edited, and translated this incredible autobiography.
Called Dreams and Nightmares/Sueños y Pesadillas, the book tells Liliana's story in both Spanish and English, on facing pages. Go to https://www.dreamsandnightmares.org/ to learn more about it.
Another WWG member, Ann de Forest, is the writer for a project called (Dis)Placed, sponsored by Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture. Working with photographer Dave Tavani, Ann is documenting the lives of displaced people who have come to Philadelphia from Syria, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Indonesia, Kuwait, and elsewhere. They all have different reasons for immigrating, but they share the quality of being courageous both in their journeys and in the willingness to tell their stories. One young man, when grilled by Homeland Security, explained his reasons for leaving his country in these words:
I don’t want to participate in the civil war. I don’t want to be involved in fighting or the military. I could never go and kill somebody.
You can read the profiles of these remarkable people here: http://www.albustanseeds.org/displaced/.