Veterans Are Responding Personally To Anti-Immigrant Sentiment — And They're Not Holding Back

“We should continue to honor and protect those who have served our country, because they have gone out of the way to protect us.”

A powerful new campaign created by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Grey Advertising in New York is calling on United States veterans to stand with immigrants on social media using #VetsFightHate.

The campaign, which launched late last month, features American veterans who were deployed during various conflicts explaining why immigrants are crucial to this country, and why we should both value them and protect them, in personal videos. Some of the videos, like the one from U.S. Navy veteran Julio Lopez, below, address hateful comments about immigrants made by specific Twitter users.

Twitter

In response to one Twitter user's hate-filled tweet about immigrants, Lopez, who says he's "had the distinct honor and pleasure of serving alongside immigrants," offered up some important facts. "As early as the Revolutionary War, immigrants have been serving in the United States military. Today, nearly 8,000 non-citizens enlist in the United States military," he explains. 

"We should continue to honor and protect those who have served our country, because they have gone out of the way, despite all odds, to protect us," he concludes. 

The hateful rhetoric that's found its way into headlines over the past year, combined with new, proposed policies that some have argued are discriminatory towards immigrants (such as the ill-fated February executive order targeting several Muslim-majority countries), served as a forceful impetus for the #VetsFightHate campaign. 

"This is just the first step in a large campaign to bring attention to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment," Ryan Hallett, an account director at Grey New York, tells A Plus. "Veterans are one of the most respected and honored groups of Americans, and they have an important voice in fighting back against those spreading hatred." 

According to a 2016 study conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, 11 percent of all veterans (approximately two million people) come from an immigrant family or are immigrants themselves.

And a 2015 study from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services found that, since October 2001, more than 109,321 members of the military have become U.S. citizens as a result of their service.

In another video, immigrant, U.S. citizen, and veteran Lawrence says, "I served in the U.S. Air Force and fought for you, your family, and people I don't even know. I risked my life for a free and inclusive country. This country was built by immigrants. Respect us, this is our home too."

"We're proud to partner with Vets Fight Hate on this innovative program," Wendy Via, SPLC chief communications and development officer, tells A Plus. "The way to respond to hate is with positive messages that reveal the humanity and dignity of those who are being targeted. This campaign counters hate by illustrating that immigrants love this country, too, and are willing to sacrifice for it."

The SPLC and Grey say feedback from the campaign has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive so far. 

"We encourage everyone to share the PSA with their friends and family to help us change minds, one tweet, one hater at a time," Hallett adds. "As the fate of some immigrants is up in the air, we want this to become part of the larger conversation to get people to think twice before judging someone without knowing them. In some instances, it's even about getting people to have the realization in the first place that there are people fighting for their freedom who they are disrespecting so openly."

Check out the PSA below to learn more.

Youtube

Though it's unclear how many veterans have participated in the campaign already, many vets and veteran organizations have expressed interest in getting involved. "Since the launch of the campaign, we have been receiving inquiries on both the client's and our microsite, and on Twitter, for how others can become involved, a good portion of them veterans," Hallett explains. "Additionally, since the PSA launched, veterans organizations have contacted us to find out how they can team up with the project."

Cover image via  Infinite_Eye / Shutterstock.com.

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