Bhavik Patel, Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition

I took SISU-240 International Development in order to gain a richer understanding on the ways in which the world has been shaped to what it looks like today. This class aimed to infiltrate indoctrinated narratives of power, authority, and freedom. We examined the ways in which the world was shaped by colonialism, and how each period of history subsequentley reacts to the relics of the past, and makes strides towards the future. One key ingredient in this examination was people. People who have been marginalized, who have been stripped of their freedoms, and who have been enslaved. These systems that have been created try to supersede the inclusion of peoples. It looks past the reaities of what power and authority has done to the colonized world. The world developed in the context of the West, without regard for the non-Western.

When the spokesperson came into class one day early on in the semester and plugged the Community Service Learning Program, I was floored. To me, one key issue with education in total sum has been my ability to act upon my thoughts and ideas. Here was an opportunity to act. I was presented with an opportunity to interact with people. It was a chance to learn what kind of work the academic sources of Development are directly in conversation with. I knew I had to look into the program.

With American University’s resources available, I found sites that sounded like they needed help to do good work. I found so many organizations and movements that were mouth watering at how much I knew I would learn. I wanted to be centered in my life. I wanted to get a taste of the world outside of my safe bubble in Tenleytown. The Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition offered exactly this. It gave me an opportunity to work with the disenfranchised of our community. The Virgina, Maryland and D.C. area has not been immune to the crackdown of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on immigrant communities under the current administration. I see videos on Facebook and Twitter of the kind of criminal activity that this branch of American government does. If you had told me a few months ago that I could do more to help mend and aid the people most effected by ICE raids, I would’ve been ecstatic and curious.

The work at CAIR Coalition enabled me to talk directly with immigrants who were being lined up for deportation. The people I was speaking with had family, and friends and lives just like me. As a volunteer on the Detention Hotline at CAIR, I was the person they relied on when they called in from detention centeres in the DMV area to give them updates on their case, and aid their fight for their livelihoods. I was able to help their case in fighting the American judicial sytem in helping them avoid certain promise of death and poverty as a result of deportation. The world needs more people in it like those who worked at CAIR Coalition. I learned invalubale characteristics of teamwork when I was immersed in their circles of compassion and empathy in order to strive towards a more equitable world. I was filed with hope throught the long hours that they would put in past my usual 5’o’clock check out time. I was reminded of the work that is to be done too. I saw the gridning of the bureacratic systems in place. I was reminded of the injustices of the police state in the United States. I was taught who the faces of alienation from American hegemony were. I could relate the people we read about in our Development textbook, who didn’t have autonomy over their freedom. People who had to be enslaved to systems of justice and economic security in the West suddenley jumped from case studies on the Mulitlateral Development Banks and the Western states, it suddenley became about right here. It became about the heart of this empire, and the people marginalized from being included within it.

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