Two years ago, I left a corporate job as a chemist and bought an artists’ studio and gallery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
I’d just become a mother, and my corporate job was taking me away for some of my daughter’s most important milestones. I was meeting with clients when she rolled over for the first time, crawled for the first time, and said her first words. This broke my heart.
The studio, which I co-own with my mother, has meant more time with family and the chance to be more involved with art — my own and others’.
We’ve also made our studio a place for cultivating community. Here, we celebrate all the people who make up Lancaster. One of our exhibits shared #BlackGirlMagic, and another featured Latinx artists. In July, we held an exhibit called “Hex,” highlighting Amish artists. We want to make sure everyone’s art is seen, and everyone feels welcome.
Our studio has also begun offering free art classes. Money shouldn’t be an obstacle for people engaging with art, just like it shouldn’t be an obstacle to education, food, or health care.
Knowing how important community has been to my business, my heart breaks when I see how much fear and racism is being sown by politicians who want to shrink our sense of community instead of enriching it.
The news is flooded with stories about this, but a lot of it’s happening behind the scenes. For example, the Trump administration is rewriting the rules to make it harder for people to become citizens. One idea they’re proposing is a new wealth test for people seeking a green card, one of the first steps toward citizenship.
That test has an income threshold of almost $63,000 a year for a family of four — a test that about a third of the U.S. population would fail. Are we all supposed to think we’re not good enough to be U.S. citizens?
This test puts huge power in the hands of government officials to reject people for a green card, when already too many people are denied any chance to move toward citizenship.
Making it worse, the administration say it’s also going to count Medicaid and food stamps against people in the immigration process. Most people who are applying for their green cards aren’t eligible for these important programs as it is. But the rules are complicated, and immigrants at all stages in the process are afraid of risking their chance at citizenship.
As a result, immigrant families will miss out on food and health care, whether they’re citizens already or hoping to become citizens. We’re already seeing stories of families walking away from essential assistance out of fear.
This new wealth test is a cruel maneuver to make our community and our country smaller instead of stronger. We shouldn’t be a country that takes food and health from people — and denies them citizenship — because they aren’t rich.
Immigrants have enriched Lancaster. They’ve helped give new life to our downtown and neighborhoods. They’ve created new opportunities for learning and sharing. And they’ve brought vitality to our local economy, helping us keep more than a thousand manufacturing jobs local.
Leaders whose strongest message is division aren’t real leaders. So, it’s up to all of us to be leaders in our communities.
I try to do this in my business every day. Today I’m going to do it in one more way: by writing to the administration and telling them I’m against wealth tests and for immigrants in my community.