For the past 15 years, I have represented numerous immigrants fleeing economic and political violence. My pro bono work has included representing asylum seekers, young people seeking relief, DACA and special immigrant juvenile status and victims of human trafficking.
When Trump announced his immigration ban, I dispatched attorneys to airports across the country to represent families being held by ICE officials, and when the Trump administration began deporting hardworking non-violent immigrants, who had committed no crime other than being in the country, I organized training and materials to help immigrants fearing deportation to protect their families.
For decades, genocide, war, famine, among other human rights crises have forced millions to flee their home countries. Families have been separated, generations devastated; entire regions crippled financially, structurally and emotionally. For generations, resourceful and hopeful refugees have looked to America as a beacon of freedom and land of opportunity, and they have enriched our country with their resilience, their work ethic, and their talents.
Five years ago, I met Hawa Salih - a human rights activist from Darfur whom my husband Mark and I have been representing since she applied for asylum in 2013.
Hawa became an activist after her village was overrun by government militia, the janjaweed, claiming the lives of more than 100 of her relatives. She herself was shot and kidnapped, but escaped and was able to rescue one of her cousins. She made her way to a refugee camp where she became an advocate for women and earned a college degree while working with UN agencies to protect other refugees.
Her advocacy earned her government recognition - of the worst kind. On three separate occasions, she was kidnapped, jailed and tortured by Sudanese authorities. International pressure forced her release, but the threat of execution meant that she had to flee her homeland, leaving her remaining family behind.
When she arrived in the US, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama presented her with the International Woman of Courage Award.
We helped her apply for asylum and she now works in our office in Philadelphia, - when she is not organizing support for the people of Darfur or testifying before the UN Security Council.
Hawa's resilience and persistence under such extreme conditions is one of the many inspirations behind my decision to run. Trump’s immigration orders banning refugees from Muslim countries would have prevented Hawa from entering this country, and could still prevent her from returning if she ever were to travel outside our borders.
Our country is better and stronger for Hawa being here, and we should welcome people with her courage, passion and drive.