Why protesting Trump’s immigration ban is important

This follows a post on Facebook I shared with my friends, asking them to join the Stand Up To Trump protest in Britain. It’s my personal account and my plea for to people who I wholly believe to be good-hearted, but sadly we live in a time when that is no longer enough.

In case you didn’t know, I am a refugee. My family are refugees. We came to England in 1983 when I was 9 months old after fleeing war in Cambodia. We ended up in England (via a refugee camp in Thailand where my family lived for 2–3 years and where I was born) because my uncle had won an engineering scholarship to study in Australia in the mid-70s. By the time he finished his studies, Cambodia was in the grip of war. The border was closed and he was given asylum in England. He was able to get word to his family that he was safe and we decided to try and join him.

Refugee is a word that’s been used a lot recently and despite the pictures and stories it’s easy to be desensitised to what this means. I’m guilty of it too. My family didn’t speak much about their life before coming to England and I’m not too close to them so I don’t know all the stories but it’s ingrained into my psyche.

Being a refugee doesn’t mean coming to another country to take someone’s job, it means you are fleeing for your life. It means making the hardest choice you’ll ever have to make. My dad had to leave his whole family behind. He and my mum argued so viciously about it, it caused an irreparable chasm in their marriage. The story is my mum lined up the children and asked my dad to pick the ones he wanted to keep because she was leaving with the rest. The road ahead was treacherous, my family trekked through the jungle, my elderly gran had to be carried, they were shot at when they approached the border. When my dad found out his own father was dying of cancer he wasn’t able to go back. He never got to say goodbye. Do you think people go through that for a council house and a factory job?

It pains me to think that there are people in the world that are now denied the same opportunity to live as my family were. Let’s be clear on this, if we had stayed in Cambodia we would probably be dead. My mum had a brother who did just that. I don’t know how he died. Maybe he starved to death, maybe the Khmer Rouge killed him. My mum won’t talk about it.

Let’s be clear that the actions of President Trump will kill people. It will tear apart families. Closing borders to a set of people trying to escape war goes beyond racism. It’s murder. People like me, like my family will die because of the place they were born.

I know some people think that marches don’t achieve much and I’m under no illusion that Mr Trump will suddenly see the light if a lot of people come out but maybe it’ll make someone think twice before they think saying a racist slur is ok, maybe it’ll make our elected representatives speak out over supporting decisive policies, it will definitely make me feel less alone in the world right now. It will make me believe that my friends have my back and will stand by me if shit goes down. And I truly believe in you all. I don’t think any of you are racists. But you don’t just get to sit back and pat yourself on the back for not being racist anymore. Because the racists are winning. They are emboldened, they are in power. And you can’t “peace, love and understand” them into submission. You have to stand and stop them.

Everyone has been told that all it took for the Nazis to rise to power was for good people to sit back and do nothing. Don’t be a good person that does nothing. Lend your voice, your protest, your presence to marches, petitions, letters, support groups. Fight back.

Please come and stand with me.

For more information about the protest, visit the Facebook event page.