Actions Speak Louder: 20 Reasons to Smile After the Refugee Ban

“Accept what you can’t change and change what you can’t accept.” ~ Jeannine Garsee. Her words tell us that change won’t occur over frustration or fruitless inaction. Did you change the mind of someone with opposing views about significant issues by shouting your opinion at them? Have major issues been resolved after you’ve disparaged your opponent on social media? Has name-calling your political and social adversaries achieved anything? Has tackling on-line trolls assisted to further your cause? Has complaining about your opposition delivered you joy or caused favorable change? Has engaging in continual debates about social and political issues brought about policy changes?

Let’s face it. Positive change only occurs through action. Real action. One week after a seven-nation ban went in full effect targeting refugees from “countries of concern,” I witnessed much truth in Garsee’s words. Here are twenty real actions that transpired following the refugee ban to remind us that positive actions speak far louder than words:


“Accept what you can’t change and change what you can’t accept.”

  1. Twitter makes a donation to the ACLU for legal resources for those detained at airports and barred from the U.S. Employees at Twitter raised $530,000 and its CEO and Board of Directors Head matched the donations totaling $1.59 million.
  2. Starbucks announced its plan to hire 10,000 refugees in the next 5 years.
  3. Apple employees made contributions to increase donations to refugee relief funds, which Apple is matching on a 2-to-1 basis.
  4. James Robart, a federal judge in Seattle, WA blocked the immigration ban. His career consisted of defending social injustices including representing Southeast Asian immigrants on a pro bono basis snd declaring that “black lives matter” while hearing a Department of Justice lawsuit against the Seattle Police Department over racial disparities in fatal shootings by police.
  5. Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver, CO had a spike in volunteer tutor applications for its refugee and immigrant English classes. New applicants expressed that the negative rhetoric regarding immigrants and refugees compelled them to apply. Refugees needing in-home tutors were on a 6-month wait list. Now, volunteers are placed on a wait list. Today it has 150+ pending applications.
  6. Instacart founder and CEO announced a $100,000 donation to the ACLU, the creation of “office hours” with immigration attorneys for employees and their families, and to expedite H-1B visas and green cards for employees in need.

7. Amazon founder announced that the company joined in a lawsuit with the Washington State Attorney General against the Executive Order. He believes that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants whose diverse backgrounds, ideas, and points of view assisted to build and invent as a nation for over 240 years.

8. Pro-refugee and pro-immigration supporters across airports nationwide rally in support of refugees like me. They propelled their opposition to the national and international arena and compelled others to contribute their legal resources and expertise.

9. Kal Penn, actor and a former official in the White House Office of Public Engagement, began an on-line fund-raising appeal for the International Rescue Committee, which works in conflict and disaster zones internationally. His fund-raising was inspired by an internet “troll.” He tweeted, “To the dude who said I don’t belong in America, I started a fund-raising page for Syrian refugees in your name,” His tweet was shared 35,000+ times. By the weekend of the ban, the site raised over $800,000 and growing.

10. Denver Mayor says he welcomes “sanctuary city” title if it means Denver supports immigrants and refugees.

11. 2,000+ Google employees protested at its California offices following the ban. Google’s co-founder (a refugee), and Chief Executive, joined the protestors on the streets. Google is expected to raise $4 million in support of those affected by the ban.

12. Over the weekend of the ban, the American Civil Liberties Union received approximately 120,000 on-line donations, totaling approximately $24.1 million. It raised 6X as much money as it would normally in an average year. Its website crashed due to overwhelming donations.

13. My friend’s daughter was assigned a school assignment involving sharing a story about a refugee and she thought about my refugee story. Her daughter will be sharing my story with other youth.

“To the dude who said I don’t belong in America, I started a fund-raising page for Syrian refugees in your name,”

14. Attorneys across the country vigorously offer pro bono legal representation in support of refugees.

15. LinkedIn CEO used the ban to boost and expand the company’s Welcome Talent program for refugees in the U.S.

16. Airbnb co-founder and CEO offered free housing to people affected by the travel ban.

17. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes refugees fleeing war and terror, regardless of their faith.

18. Refugee supporters are voicing their concerns that are flooding politicians’ and government officials’ e-mails and voicemails.

19. The National Immigration Law Center joined the ACLU in a lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqi refugees who were detained on the Saturday after the ban. It raised $269,000 since the order was signed. Donations had increased “across the board” and were now larger, more frequent, and coming from more individual donors than it has ever seen.

20. Days following my presentation on my refugee experience and following the weekend of the ban, colleagues and other individuals approached me and inquired about my refugee experience and the Việt Nam War. They also inquired about film and literature recommendations on Việtnamese refugees. As a result, I was called a refugee advocate, a title I’ll proudly wear.

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