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4243 N. Lincoln Ave. | info@chicago47.

org | Office Hours: M-F 9am to 5pm

November 10, 2016

The 47th Ward Office will be CLOSED, Friday, November 11 in observance of Veteran's Day.
Next ward night is November 16 from 5pm to 7pm at 4243 N. Lincoln Avenue.

Dear Neighbor,
I am the son of Indian immigrants and my dad was just five years old
during the British partition of India and Pakistan. The trauma associated
with splitting one nation into two by religion is still felt by Indians and
Pakistanis today. The impacts to his family were very real. It wasn't until
he came to the United States in 1972 that he experienced a life without
food rations. My wife, Charna, is Jewish and her family is made up of
recent immigrants and refugees and survivors of the Holocaust. Charna
often talks about how Jews have spent millennia running from one place to
the next in search of a stable home. And she often talks about how our
families, and millions of immigrants and refugees come to the United
States because our country is the freest place in the world. Her family's
experience led her to a career in human rights where she worked with and
taught unaccompanied undocumented minors at the International
Children's Center, led the Heartland Alliance's Refugee and Immigrant
Community Services department resettling refugees from Sudan, Iraq, and
beyond, and was one of the leaders in Chicago's efforts to resettle over 10k
Hurricane Katrina evacuees, America's refugees. She did so out of a sense
of service to our country, a country that allowed entry to her family and
millions of others; and she did so to help make the world a better place .

So when the Presidential campaign devolved into denigrating and casting

refugees and immigrants as weak, drains on our government, and people to
be feared, we were offended and horrified. Charna often says that refugees
and evacuees are the most resilient people on the planet. They walk
continents, survive warehousing, flee their homelands to escape violence,
or leave their homes after a massive natural disaster in search of safety and
the dream of a better life for themselves and their families. And that search
for safety, security, and a better life is the definition of the American
experience. So as the campaign rhetoric escalated over the last year,
Charna and I had a conversation about some of the anti-immigrant, racist,
homophobic, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic rhetoric coming from the
President-elect's campaign. What would we do if he won? What would we
do if he was serious about a religious litmus test? What we do if he began
rounding up undocumented immigrants, immigrants, and refugees? What
would this mean for our family and our friends and neighbors from diverse
backgrounds? Based on our collective experience and from history, we
know how ugly rhetoric can spin from just that into policies and actions.
So we asked ourselves, where would we go if we unimaginably had to
leave? And the irony of the last question? My wife said "Germany", the
country that part of her family fled to escape the Holocaust, the country
that today takes in hundreds of thousands of refugees from around the
world, is one country that we could consider due to WWII reparations for
the descendants of families that were forced to flee. And that was saddest
conversation of our life.
I say all of this because we know what if feels like to be seen as 'the other.'
And I know most of the 48 million people who voted for the Presidentelect do not believe, subscribe to, or hold values which align with the
rhetoric of his campaign. My guess is that for many people who voted for
the President-elect, they too felt like 'the other.' Economic policies,
widening income inequality, and a lack of investment in communities
manifested itself in the results on Tuesday night. We must deal with these
issues and hear people before suffering forces more people into the arms of
a demagogue. That's really all I have to say on this because there is so
much I don't understand about Tuesday.

All said, I will continue to push back on the idea that wealth equals
competence in government. I will continue to push back against leaders
who seek to create 'the others', whether they are immigrants, refugees,
people with disabilities, people of color, women, LGBTQ, or members of
unions. My commitment to social justice will never change. I do feel that
the level of our discourse has been cheapened by social media and other
platforms where people and politicians seek immediate responses and
appeal to and act on one another's most base instincts. So my office is
going to take a break from the echo chamber that is social media and find
better ways to engage and promote rational public discourse.
In the coming days and months, we should all start a new level of
discourse by engaging and helping organizations that do the hard work of
protecting American values and serving our neighbors in need. I hope
you'll join us and get involved with organizations like Planned Parenthood,
La Casa Norte, the Sierra Club, Heartland Alliance, Apna Ghar,
Thresholds, the Center on Halsted, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Consider volunteering your time or making a financial contribution to an
organization of your choice. Let's all do our part.
In closing, I don't have a prescriptive idea today - writing this letter to you
is cathartic for me and an expression of many conversations I've had with
some of you over the last 48 hours. I'll simply end this week's letter by
going back to my dad's story. My dad is 5 foot 2. I am 6 feet tall. And
there is a reason for why there is a major height difference between the
two of us. In India, my dad battled typhoid as a young boy and lived off
food rations; I grew up here with plenty of food to eat and without any
health or public health concerns. In just one generation, and because of
American immigration policies, my parents were able to see their son
elected as the first Asian American alderman in Chicago's history and
watch their daughter graduate with a doctorate from Northwestern
University. America is a great country. Americans are a good people. And
nowhere else in the world is my family's story possible. But today, it is the
hope and dream realized by my parents and my wife's family that we cling
to for support and hope. We have to chart a course forward and we will.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.