About the Contributors
I Am Not An Alien is a project that aims to change the narrative around immigration by amplifying the voices and showing the faces of immigrants who are not only living the American Dream, but also contributing to communities across the country. From running for office and starting small businesses to teaching and helping to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, the participants in this project are among millions of immigrants and children of immigrants who are helping to build a brighter and more prosperous shared future.
Representative Samba Baldeh is a native of Gambia who moved to Madison, Wisconsin, twenty years ago to study at Madison College and University of Wisconsin–Madison, and then became a software engineer. In 2020, Baldeh was elected state representative for the 48th Assembly District (Madison’s north and far eastside), becoming the first Muslim and first African-born candidate to serve in the state legislature.
Winny Chanthalalay is an engineer and native of Laos. Her passion for home brewing led to the launch of her own hard seltzer company in Milwaukee, Crazy Asian Wild Seltzer.
Sophal Ear is a tenured associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles and serves on the Crescenta Valley Town Council, representing more than 22,000 residents in unincorporated Los Angeles County, California. A graduate of Princeton University and University of California–Berkeley, he moved to the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of 10.
Annie Evans is a Lebanese American currently living in Arlington, Virginia, where she works on advancing equity and inclusivity of people living with disabilities in emergency response, particularly on issues related around COVID-19.
Taif Jany is an immigration policy researcher and advocate, specializing in the U.S. visa system and international students. At Next100, Taif concentrates on amplifying the contributions of immigrants and international students to communities across the United States. He has developed both legislative and executive immigration policy recommendations that aim to re-attract, protect, and retain international students.
Idil Ozer is a communications professional based in Washington, D.C. Born in Baltimore, Maryland Idil was raised in Izmir, Turkey, and moved to the United States to attend college. She identifies getting her parents their greencards as her biggest accomplishment.
Victor Santos is a fintech investor and entrepreneur at One Way Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund investing in a new generation of immigrant founders. After moving to the United States from Brazil when he was 12 years old, Santos, a DACA recipient, eventually graduated from University of California–Berkeley and has been recognized as a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur.
In an era of deep political divisions, social anxiety, and civil uncertainty, communities across America need to come together to heal and reunite around our values of equality, justice, and freedom.
We believe that immigration is a solution for, not an obstacle to, a more united America.
With nearly 50 million residing across the United States, immigrants contribute so much to the well-being of this country. They are job creators, employees, teachers, students, doctors, business leaders, elected officials, chefs, change-makers, and drivers of social, cultural, political, and technological advancement, and much more.
To shift the national immigration narrative, we need the general public and political decision makers to move away from the divisive rhetoric, and towards seeing immigrants as people with incredible cultural backgrounds, unique experiences, and immense contributions to our country. We have to start talking about immigration not as an issue area, but rather as an integral element of the success of our communities, cities, and states.
I Am Not An Alien aims to give immigrants the opportunity to tell you their side of the story, in their own voice. The goal of this project is to create a space for a productive and well-informed bipartisan dialogue that could have a long-lasting positive impact on not only our immigration policies but also the future of the United States and our communities.