Guest Commentary: Not the America I Know

By Hoan Dang

Last week, I was shocked and saddened to learn about the detention and deportation of Lizandro Claros, 19, and his brother, Diego Claros, 22. After Lizandro informed Immigration Customs & Enforcement agents of his intention to move so he could attend college in North Carolina on a soccer scholarship, he and his brother were detained and then deported back to El Salvador.

As I read about the Claros brothers’ background in the news, I saw parallels to my own personal journey settling in Montgomery County. The Claros brothers fled violence from their birth country of El Salvador as minors and settled with their family in Montgomery County. Lizandro and Diego, both accomplished soccer players with the Bethesda (Maryland) Soccer Club, volunteered in their community to better the lives of youth their own age. They graduated from Montgomery County public schools and have never been in trouble with law enforcement. Like the Claros brothers, my family and I also fled our birth country of Vietnam to escape violence and persecution. And like the Claros brothers, we worked hard to contribute to our new country, gain an education and give back to our communities. Through all of this, we achieved the American Dream.  

But for the Claros brothers, that dream was shattered by the unconscionable acts of ICE and the policies of the current administration. The America I know does not provide opportunities to families seeking a better life and then take those opportunities away.  

President Donald Trump and ICE would like you to believe that deportees like Lizandro and Diego are criminals and “bad hombres.” However, this is not the case. Arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal history has risen more than 150 percent under the Trump administration, according to ICE.  My 20 years of service with the Association of Vietnamese Americans have brought me to work with thousands of refugees and immigrants that have done nothing wrong other than escaping unfathomable amounts of violence, poverty and persecution. These people want nothing else but to provide a better life for their children.  

Let us not give into the fears and misinformation spouted out from the White House. Let’s instead work together to fight back and protect one of the most important fibers in the fabric of America: the people who come here. At 2 p.m. Aug. 15, I will join CASA, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in low-income immigrant communities, which will hold a rally in front of the White House to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and stop the deportations that shatter the dreams of people like Lizandro, Diego and thousands of others. I hope you can join me. It’s time to stand up. 

You can find more information about the rally at wearecasa.org.  

Hoan Dang of Wheaton, a 30-year community activist, is an at-large candidate for Montgomery County Council.

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