• Susan Kiskis

Harrisburg Calls for Solidarity on Refugee and Immigrant Rights

Photo: By Oxfam East Africa - New arrivals wait to get processed, CC BY 2.0,

Pennsylvania's capitol, Harrisburg, will be back in the spotlight this weekend with another rally. Harrisburg, a city that is vibrant with restaurants and annual festivals, is carving a place in history with its active residents. The Immigrants'-Rights Rally/ Immigrant Solidarity March will be held on the steps of the Harrisburg Capitol building on Sunday, February, 5th at 2:00 P.M. The rally will include speakers and a 1 mile march.

On January 27th, President Trump signed an Executive Order, temporarily banning travel of residents from 7 Muslim-predominant countries for the next 90 days (with the exception of a few groups such as "foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas"), as well as suspending "the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days."1. Co-organizer of the The Immigrants'-Rights Rally/ Immigrant Solidarity March, Joy Marie Manbeck, spoke with us about her motivation to create the rally, and how others can use their voice to make a difference.

What compelled you to organize the Immigrants'-Rights Rally/ Immigrant Solidarity March?

Katherine Lugaro and I have organized multiple events together. In the past, we have worked as a team when one of us has had an idea for an event. We have many of the same beliefs and passions. She came up with the idea for this one and asked me to join her. ‎There are a multitude of reasons why Katherine and I are organizing this event, and an array of reasons why people are coming. First and foremost, we feel it is absolutely imperative to show solidarity with anyone being affected under Trump's regime; especially since last Saturday's changes. There are countless aspects of what is transpiring in our country right now. There are people who have lived in our country for years, with valid Green Cards, who are being unconstitutionally detained at airports for no other reason than they are flying in from one of the seven countries Trump has placed on his radar.

Another reason is that many of us feel that if people want immigrants to stop coming into our country, we should stop bombing the hell out of theirs! Trump has promised to build a 25 billion dollar wall and that money would be enough to pay housing, clothes and food for every single homeless person in our country. He has skewed priorities, to say the least.

Furthermore, many of us believe that Trump is actually making us more UN-SAFE by being so hateful and xenophobic. Ultimately, Trump has yet to give a single reason for the decisions he is making. Have there been studies completed? Are there statistics? Do we have examples? What makes the people who are being detained so risky? We have never been told! Tell me about your reaction to President Trump's "Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States" last week? When I woke up to that news "ding" on my phone. I started sobbing. I was absolutely heartbroken. Many of us convinced ourselves at one point or another that Trump would have to get such orders to be passed by Congress. Of course, there are many who would agree with his decision, but we told ourselves that they would be outweighed by those who would oppose it. It was the epitome of a rude awakening to see just how easy it is for a president to sign a piece of paper and change our world with just that signature. Do you believe organized action can help sway the minds of President Trump and Congress? This is a very difficult question which I wrestle with often. I do believe that we can hopefully create some trepidation in Congress; show them that we will not be quiet. Show them that the power of the people is greater than the people in power. How can organized action, like the Immigrants'-Rights Rally/ Immigrant Solidarity March, help support the country as a whole? One of the most gratifying things about these events, whether I'm an organizer or a participant, is inspiring others. It's incredibly rewarding to witness people get that adrenaline of "I just did a march! Do you know when the next one is?"

As a nation, we have been far too complacent for far too long. I think it's fair to say that the internet has been an incredible vehicle to educate the masses and organize. Encouraging others to have a voice is important beyond words. Too many times, the people with important ideas are those who stay silent. Do you feel that with the number of protests over the past couple of weeks people are becoming blind to the message, or do you feel it emboldens people to support causes that speak to them? It's an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, I can see people who are uninterested, becoming desensitized, and viewing things as "just another protest." On the other hand, I have witnessed people attend rallies and marches who have never even entertained the idea in the past. A lot of activists, myself included, are concerned that the countless people who went to the Women's March as a first event, will not feel the need to continue to fight. This is going to be an extremely long 4 years, and we, as people cannot do a march the first weekend of a presidency and then sit idle until his term runs out. Some people feel like their voice is not heard, what advice can you give them? I guess I'm old-school, but Facebook to me, has been a great way for my voice to be heard. I have signed petitions, organized marches and rallies, written articles, networked with people all across the globe, and gotten to know a number of wonderful people in government- on a local and broad level.

Katherine and I have done "events" with just the 2 of us before. On November 8th, we stood with our Bernie signs on the capitol steps, cheered, and yelled all by ourselves. We needed to do it. We felt satisfaction by doing it. It's not always who has the biggest turnout or the best speakers. If you feel inspired, get out and do something about it! How do you find that common ground with those who believe Trump's executive order is a good decision? Something which, admittedly is hard at times, is to stay open-minded and try not insult or be condescending to who you're speaking with. I've found that a lot of people are simply misinformed. There are, without question, many people who do not want to "learn" and at that point, it's out of our hands.

Although, I have also spoken with several people who disagree with me on many things, but we are kind and respectful to each other. It's actually quite a good learning experience.

Something Trump has been extremely effective with is fear-mongering. Some Americans are genuinely afraid of immigrants and refugees. The reasons aren't valid to us, but to them they make total sense. One thing I typically discuss with them is the wars we're involved in. I ask them to envision children sitting in rubble, watching their family members die and their homes getting destroyed. I ask them if they would like to stay there and merely exist for however long they may have left, or would they like to come to the United States and start a new life. One which they felt safe in and one which was promising. It may be a morose way to make people think, but it has worked. Helping people understand the reason behind things can definitely help shape their views.

Ultimately, this is not simply an immigrant issue, or a Muslim issue, or a black and brown issue; This is a human rights issue and people do not deserve to be subjected to the things they are being forced to endure.

I am incredibly proud to be on the right side of history. As my hero, Senator Bernie Sanders says, "Never lose your sense of outrage!"

For more information on the rally, visit the the Immigrants'-Rights Rally/ Immigrant Solidarity March's Facebook event page.

1. Whitehouse.gov

#immigrants #march #muslimban

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