Forty years ago, my parents were forced to flee their home in Uganda when the dictator Idi Amin came to power. Pushing nationalist "Uganda First" policies, Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of all people of Indian descent from the country within 90 days or risk being shot on spot. The dictator baselessly blamed ethnic Indians – many of whom were Ugandan citizens – of stealing jobs during a time of economic uncertainty. Even though two generations of my family had lived in Uganda, my parents' religion and national origin put them at risk.
My parents applied to several nations for refugee status, but received one heartbreaking rejection letter after another. Then, with the dictator's ninety day window drawing near, a letter came that literally saved their lives. "You've been accepted," it said, "to the United States of America."
Upon reaching America's shores, my parents did what so many generations of immigrants and political refugees had done before them. They worked hard day and night, saved every extra dollar, and helped their daughters seize every opportunity afforded to them by this great nation. They saw me grasp tightly to the American dream and serve my country as a lawyer, an activist, as the Deputy Public Advocate in New York City, and now as the CEO of Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology.
Their journey affirms the central promise of America – that this is a place where if you work hard, you can have a fair shot at success and give back to the nation that gave you a chance. It's this promise of America that Mr. Trump, through his executive orders last Friday, has put at risk.
It's frightening to consider the parallels of what's unfolding in America right now and what my parents faced in Uganda four decades ago. Just like then, people today are being told that closing our borders and closing our hearts to those struggling and striving abroad is the only way. We're being told that America is a zero sum game – that the dreams of immigrants come at the expense of those native born and that the religious freedom of some threatens the security of others.