Will this government continue to value us, respect our rights and provide opportunities for us? -Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal
Highlighting the post-election fear and anxiety among immigrants, a senior Indian-American official in the Obama Administration has said she experienced it in her own home when the children asked if Donald Trump’s win meant they will “have to leave” the country. “There is a lot of anxiety now in a lot of communities across the country. Immigrants, minorities, people who have lived in the kind of vulnerable communities across America, the lower income, those who might be of different sexual orientation, those who worship a faith that is not a dominant faith,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told said.
A day after the elections were held, Biswal said she experienced this fear in her own home. “It was shocking to me that my young children seven and nine had picked up so much of the rhetoric of the campaign that themselves, a day after the elections, expressed their concerns and said, ‘Does this mean that we have to leave, because we are immigrants’,” Biswal told PTI.
“And I reassured them that they are Americans, they have every right to be here and they have an obligation to be here, to be part of what brings this country and moves this country forward and I reassured them that not only do they belong here, but that they are welcomed and valued members of America,” she said.
Biswal, who is in her late 40s, said there is a lot of fear and anxiety in those communities.
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“Will this government continue to value us, respect our rights and provide opportunities for us? And that is something that the President-elect (Trump) and the incoming administration need to address and need to provide leadership and build confidence across all Americans that they would lead for all Americans,” she said.
Biswal said people are anxious if the new administration would stand for those values and those principles that have defined the country for so many years and that all Americans will have their due rights and respect and will have opportunities to continue to grow and thrive and contribute to the society.
“I am hopeful that so many of the people that are coming in to this next administration are people who share those values, people who are patriots and want to see America continue to be that beacon, that shining beacon on the hill…that represents inclusion. But that has not been the rhetoric that has brought this President-elect into office,” she said.
Biswal rued that this campaign laid bare a lot of the divisions that exists within the society. “I do understand the anxiety that many people in many parts of this country feel about the change that is happening so rapidly. What I don’t understand and what I have very difficult time accepting is the rhetoric that those who would aspire to be our leaders, the divisive rhetoric that they themselves have employed,” she said.
“Because I think, one has to engage people’s fears from the perspective of trying to bridge the gaps, bridge the divides and try to assure them, reassure them, and build confidence and build trust, instead of trying to exasperate those fears and exploit those fears,” she said.
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Biswal said post 9/11, there was a great deal of anxiety among immigrants as the country grappled with attacks on homeland but then also dealt with the fear that endangered within the communities of trust. “Those are issues that we have to work through. What I think helped tremendously is that the leadership of President (George) Bush and that of state and local leaders (who) took the initiatives in urging the country to come together and not turn on one another. One of the very early things that President Bush (did) after 9/11 was to visit a mosque,” she said.
Members of the Congress passed resolutions to support the Sikh community when they were feeling the brunt of the attacks.
“Things that our leaders did was to essentially bring people together. That is what people are looking to see from the President-elect act in the next administration, on how are you going to bring this country together,” Biswal said.
“Because America is strongest when we are making common cause and not when we are turning one against each other or are being suspicious of one another, so that’s to me feel different and deeply unfortunate is the we need to see the leadership and the rhetoric at the very top that we see back together again and allows us to rebuild that trust in each other and invest in each other,” Biswal said.