March For Public Education Speaker: Sanaa Abrar

July 22, 2017, Washington, D.C.

Part of a series highlighting speakers at the March for Public Education.

Sanaa Abrar, speaking at the March For Public Education, July 22, 2017

Good morning!

My name is Sanaa Abrar and I am here representing United We Dream — the nation’s largest network of immigrant youth and families.

I am proud to be an immigrant and no matter what Donald Trump or the extremists have to say, I am here to stay!

On behalf of United We Dream’s hundreds of thousands of members across the entire country I want to say thank you.

Thank you to the educators who inspire us in classrooms,

And thank you to the educators who stand with us as we struggle together for justice.

I came to the United States from Pakistan when I was very young.

Growing up, I would ask my parents why they left their lives and families behind to come here.

Every time I would ask, their answer was the same: education for our girls.

This country was and still is a beacon of hope for millions of immigrants who come here to create a better life for themselves, their children and their families.

It’s what brought my parents to make the decision to move all the way across the globe to come here.

I grew up in Kentucky, land of horses and suburbia.

Growing up, I was often the only brown kid in the classroom. I felt isolated and alone at times, and I felt I had to prove myself more than the other kids in class.

I was a brown, Muslim immigrant in Kentucky.

And there was bullying: Kids would call me out for my religion or background and I listened to the wise words of my mom:

“They want you to be angry.

They want you to walk away.

Don’t do that. Educate them. Make them better.”

And you know who also supported me along the way? Educators. Educators who created safe spaces for me to be me!

Stories like that are heard every day at United We Dream.

They are part of why we believe in high quality public education for every child.

And it is why we believe that educators should be treated like the professionals that you are and should have the right to collectively bargain in the workplace.

Because for most people I know, teachers are the gateway to the American Dream.

Teachers who believe that regardless of our skin color, religion, the languages we speak, whom we love, or the papers we might not have, that every child has a fair shot at discovering who they are and what they can become!

But there are some who disagree with that vision.

And I want to talk to you about them for a second.

You know, it seems like every day there is some new crazy story coming out about the Trump Administration.

Every morning I check my phone and I’m like .. he did what?!

And then I’m like — yup. He sure did.

There are jokes on late night TV and it’s gotten to the point where some people have tuned it out — have begun to think of it as just one big joke.

But amidst the chaos, there is a committed group of extremists who are focused like a laser on reshaping our government.

They are focused on turning our schools into little laboratories of conformity and control. Of creating environments that exclude rather than include. Of funneling taxpayer dollars into institutions that could have turned me away at the schoolhouse door.

And on immigration, they are dead set on forcing tens of millions of immigrants into silence, into detention camps and out of the country.

Did you know that shortly after assuming the Presidency, the Trump Administration gave $110 million to one of their campaign contributors to build a new immigrant detention camp? They have submitted budget requests to hold over 50,000 immigrants in camps every day.

And in the last week, officials have announced that they may kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program which protects 800,000 immigrant youth from deportation and allows them to work.

They want to kill the program, and essentially create MORE undocumented people so they can go to the homes of my friends one by one to hunt them down.

This kind of blood sport is sick.

In some states, they want to turn everyone — even educators into deputized Trump deportation agents.

Are we gonna let that happen?

I didn’t think so!

In April of this year over 130 educational institutions across the country joined us to say that they would resist the extremists and fight for, and alongside, their immigrant students and their families.

And over 70,000 non-immigrants have joined United We Dream’s #HereToStay network, pledging to stand in the way of the mass-deportation machine.

I’ve got to say folks, these are dark times in our democracy.

But as Martin Luther King said,

Darkness cannot drive out the darkness, only light can do that

Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.

My friends, I need you to stand with me and stand with immigrants.

Are you ready?

I need you to take out your phone and text HERETOSTAY (all one word) to 877–877.

With this simple act, you can join me, Adrian, Greisa, Rodrigo, and other immigrant young people to really make our country great.

Have you done it yet?

Come on.

Take out your phones and text HeretoStay to 877877

We’ll get you plugged in to some amazing stories and some kick ass ways to make a difference.

Say it with me

Here to stay!

Here to stay!

Here to stay!

Right now, 800,000 immigrant youth are protected but that DACA protection is at more risk than ever before. But I believe we can save the program and keep these young people safe.

I believe we can do it if we come together and organize.

Right now, as we stand here, 200 immigrant youth from 10 states have traveled to Albuquerque New Mexico to plan the resistance.

I believe that we can win because we’re smarter than the extremists.

We’ve certainly got more style and more sass.

But I need you to join us because together, we are unstoppable!

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