Meet Emmanuel, A Migrant From Africa Fighting For A Better Life
This is Emmanuel. He's an immigrant from Nigeria who has been living in Italy for two years. Even though he's educated (his English is waaaay better than my Italian or Russian or anything else), he couldn't find work in Nigeria, or even enough food to eat.
So he made the dangerous trip from Nigeria to Libya, which is basically a lawless country right now. During his time there he saw people robbed and shot dead. A lot. It sounded absolutely horrible.
But it's also a place where desperate people can find smugglers who will sneak them into Europe on a raft for thousands of dollars. A huge fortune to someone like Emmanuel.
But that's what he did. He made it but not everyone else was so lucky. We've all read and seen the stories about people drowning. Emmanuel lived it.
Here in Italy, he's absolutely not allowed to work until his paperwork is approved. The government provides him with housing and some food, and two and a half euros a day.
In order to make enough to get by, and to try and send some money home to his impoverished family, he spends his days standing outside the local grocery store in the hot sun hoping for whatever helping hand people will give him. Despite his circumstances, he's always friendly and positive and greets everyone with a "Buon giorno!" or a "Ciao!."
There aren't a lot of African people here in southern Italy and I can't imagine how lonely Emmanuel must feel. I can't imagine being so desperate that I would flee to a country where I didn't speak the language and plenty of people would resent my presence and my family was thousands of miles away.
But Emmanuel doesn't have to imagine it.
I started buying a little extra food whenever I shopped so I could give him a few things -- bread, lentils, bananas, some spare change. Then I started to talking to him a bit, which is how I learned his story.
I get that immigration is a very complicated, very emotional topic. And I get that western countries can't take in every refugee that wants to flee their homelands for whatever reason.
But in a time when Trump and other conservatives are demonizing these people as murderers and rapists, as little more than animals who want to steal our jobs, it's important to point out as often and loudly as we can that these are human beings. Human beings fleeing desperate conditions that most of us can't imagine. Conditions that generations ago many of our own families fled. And plenty of them did it illegally as well.
I know almost everyone reading these words already understands this. But I also know under the constant assault of Trump and the Republican Party, it can feel exhausting to keep having these fights and working to beat them back.
But I know talking to Emmanuel helped remind me how worth these arguments are worth having.