“I make sure that they value their culture as much as I do mine.”
Recently on “The Ellen Show,” Ellen DeGeneres surprised audience member Emily Francis by inviting her onto the stage during the show. DeGeneres introduced Francis to the audience as someone who came to the U.S. from Guatemala when she was 15 years old with only a 6th grade education. Francis now teaches English as a second language at Irvin Elementary School in Concord, North Carolina.
Francis told the audience about her journey to the U.S. as an immigrant prior to becoming an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. When Francis was 13 years old, her mother immigrated to the U.S. leaving Francis behind in Guatemala to care for her four younger siblings. It wasn’t until Francis was 15 years old, in 1994, that her mother raised enough money to reunite with her children. Despite the obstacles Francis and her siblings faced as immigrants arriving to the U.S., her grandmother, who was a U.S. citizen, was able to help them.
Ever since then, Francis has worked towards becoming an English teacher. She makes it her goal not only to help children learn English, but to embrace and acknowledge every student’s culture.
After speaking to Francis, DeGeneres brought another guest onto the stage and that was Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO and Founder of “Chobani,” a popular Greek yogurt company.
Similar to Francis’ story, Ulukaya also immigrated to the U.S. in 1994 from a small village in Turkey where he grew up. Ulukaya admits that when we first moved to New York City, he was overwhelmed by the city. However, he took a risk and decided to buy a factory that was being sold for junk in 2005. “Everybody said I was crazy,” Ulukaya recalled.
With only five factory workers, Ulukaya and his employees began to produce the yogurt that his mother used to make. Now The Chobani Foundation has a total of 2,000 employees.
As a result of this success, The Chobani Foundation decided they wanted to support the elementary school Francis teaches at and surprised her with a check of $100,000. In the video above, you see that Francis was left in utter shock when they brought out the large check. She broke down in tears and thanked Ulukaya again and again.
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It is graduation season and Covid-19 has changed how we conduct graduation ceremonies. This year, few high school seniors will be able to walk across the stage as states and counties protect their health and offer graduation alternatives. Celebrities have stepped up to give these seniors special commencement speeches.
Selena Gomez wanted to give immigrads a special commencement speech honoring their experience.
“Congratulations to all of the Immigrads,” Gomez says int he video. “I know that this is a virtual ceremony, but it is very real and it is very real to all of the families, and all of you, and your communities. I want you guys to know that you matter and that your experiences are a huge part of the American story.”
Gomez used her speech to connect with the immigrant graduates by relating to their stories.
“When my family came here from Mexico, they set into motion my American story, as well as theirs,” Gomez says. “I’m a proud third-generation American-Mexican, and my family’s journey and their sacrifices helped me get me to where I am today. Mine is not a unique story. Each and every one of you have a similar tale of becoming an American.”
Gomez gave her address for Define American, an immigrant-led organization.
Define American “is a narrative and culture change organization that uses media and the power of storytelling to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America,” reads the website.
Gomez fans are here to support the singer and her speech.
Gomez has used her platform to confront major topics in American politics and society. She produced “13 Reasons Why” to enter the conversation about teenage suicide and has used her social media platform to celebrate undocumented immigrants chasing the American Dream.
Gomez ended her speech giving all of the immigrads some words of encouragement.
“So, regardless of where your family is from, regardless of your immigration status, you have taken action to earn an education, to make your families proud, and to open up your worlds,” Gomez says. “So, I’m sending all of my love to you guys today, and congratulations, and I hope that you guys are set off to be everything that you want to be.”
The weather is growing colder, the days are growing shorter, and flu season has started to rear its ugly head. As usual, the government is encouraging anyone older than six months to get the vaccine, but one population is actually being denied flu shots.
Thousands of people are still detained at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities for undocumented entry, and so far, none of them have had access to the influenza vaccine.
A few months ago, CBP camps were dismally overcrowded—they are still seeing an average of 3,500 people in custody each day, but that number has decreased substantially from a daily average of 20,000 migrants earlier this year (from January through July, over 600,000 migrants were detained after attempting to cross the border). Nevertheless, the conditions of the CBP sites (cramped quarters, limited access to hygienic facilities, etc.) make a perfect breeding ground for viruses, yet CBP officials have claimed that it would be too difficult to implement a vaccine program within their current infrastructure, which includes a staff of more than 250 medical personnel.
“To try and layer a comprehensive vaccinations system on to that would be logistically very challenging for a number of reasons. There’s a system and process for implementing vaccines—for supply chains, for quality control, for documentation, for informed consent, for adverse reactions,” the CBP said in a statement. They also said that this policy has been in place for some time, largely due to the fact that their “typical” processing time of 72 hours doesn’t warrant the need for interventions like vaccination. Of course, most of the people being held at CBP facilities have been there much longer than three days.
On top of not vaccinating the thousands of people in their custody, CBP does not require their staff to get a flu shot—a policy that could not only perpetuate the virus in CBP facilities but could also put their own families at risk.
“CBP officers could be shedding the virus. You are adding a whole other layer to what is basic medical neglect,” said Dr. Bonnie Arzuaga, a pediatrician based in Boston who also founded Doctors for Camp Closure. “In every other institutionalized setting—hospitals, schools, long term healthcare facilities—staff are required to get the flu shot.” The influenza vaccine is essential in institutionalized settings because of its incredibly high contagion rate. According to the CDC, the flu is contagious up to 24 hours before someone develops symptoms and up to a week afterward.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University and a longtime adviser to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that this year, the flu has started early and is already wreaking havoc all over the country. Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta-based pediatrician, noted that many of her patients hadn’t even had a chance to get their flu shots before getting infected. “This year, I had children testing positive for the flu in early October,” said Shu. “We don’t usually see flu that early in the year.” So far, of the main circulating strains is Influenza B, which has a propensity to hit children especially hard.
As many as 61,200 adults and 143 children died from complications of the flu illness in the 2018-2019 flu season. Three of those children died of the flu while in CBP custody.
To combat CBP’s negligence and prevent further deaths of the individuals in their care, Arzuaga’s Doctors for Camp Closure volunteered to provide free vaccinations to people in CBP’s care. The group formed in August of this year and is comprised of around 2,000 physician members, many of whom signed a letter to federal officials offering this vaccination service. The physicians stated that they initially planned to vaccinate 100 migrants, ultimately hoping to vaccinate the majority of the people currently detained.
The doctors with Doctors for Camp Closure confirmed that of 200,000 children in federal custody last year, the three deaths mentioned above, which were attributed to complications from influenza, are nine times higher than the expected child death rate from the flu. “In our professional medical opinion, this alarming mortality rate constitutes an emergency which threatens the safety of human lives, particularly children,” says the Doctors for Camp Closure letter.
The CBP ultimately dismissed this letter and the physicians’ offer to administer free vaccines. Kelly Cahalan, CBP spokesperson, told The Post that her agency has never provided immunizations for detained migrants and has no plans to do so. And a representative told CNN, “We haven’t responded [to the letter], but it’s not likely to happen.”