Immigrant Heritage Month Proclamation 

Thank you, panelists, for your patience as we went through our very full agenda; it’s great to have you here.

It is my honor to introduce Multnomah County’s first Immigrant Heritage Month proclamation.

Forty-two years ago, my parents sent me -- their 16-year old daughter -- to the United States, to go to college. They did so because they believed an American education would unlock a better future for me. And they did so knowing that I likely would stay here -- that I would never come back to live permanently near them. They are now 80 and 90 years old, and they live in India. They have never wanted to migrate to the US. India is their culture, their tradition, their home. But as they enter the twilight of their lives, we recognize, more deeply each day, the sacrifice they made.

Every immigrant journey is different. I arrived by choice; I arrived speaking English. These were huge advantages. Other immigrants arrive fleeing war, political or other violence, or extreme economic hardship. But every immigrant journey also shares these two common themes: one of sacrifice -- of leaving behind a part of oneself; and of opportunity and aspiration -- of building a new life in this country: one that incorporates the best of the old and of the new.

These journeys have been going on for millennia. Immigration isn’t recent, or strange, or aberrational. People have always migrated. They always will; and that should be not just accepted, but embraced, as part of a natural cycle that makes us all stronger.

Immigrants have also always faced discrimination; but the last federal administration took that discrimination to new lows, not only with vile and violent rhetoric, but with policies that actively and intentionally sought new ways to keep us out; and to make our lives here as difficult as possible.

That makes it more important than ever that we recognize and celebrate our powerful and diverse immigrant stories, and the immense economic, social and cultural contributions we make to this country. We are caregivers, farmworkers, business owners, and elected officials; we are poets, artists, and musicians.

Someone asked me the other day what it means to me to be an immigrant. It means a lot of things, but most fundamentally it means being firmly rooted in my identity as Indian; and firmly rooted in my identity as American. It means bringing the best of both identities and experiences together into a stronger, more resilient whole. That’s what each of us does individually; and that’s what immigrants, collectively, do for the country.

By celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month, we honor and celebrate our immigrant stories; our strength; and our resilience. We affirm that we not only belong; but are essential to the fabric of this country. And as policy makers, we commit to doing everything we can to ensure that our immigrant communities are safe, supported, and can not only survive -- but thrive -- in Multnomah County and throughout the country.

And with that, I’d like to turn this over to our panel, led by Sankar Raman, the founder and Executive Director of a beautiful project called The Immigrant Story. Sankar, over to you.