SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Many Americans have experienced the hatred behind the words, “go back to where you came from” or something similar. Whether it’s from someone in a leadership position or from someone in regular, everyday life, the fear for those receiving the messages is real.
Part of a voicemail sent to Taneeza Islam: “Go live in Saudi Arabia where you’re not even allowed to drive. Or go to Pakistan where you’ll probably be raped repeatedly.”
That is part of a clip from a voicemail Taneeza Islam received in 2017 after lobbying in Pierre as an immigration lawyer.
Another part of the voicemail: “Hi, I’ve been reading some articles about you online. I am a white nationalist, sixty-two years old, born and raised in this country.”
“That was really something that instilled fear in me and anxiety. I have two small children and a husband. I shared it with him and it caused us to rethink the work that I’m engaged in here,” South Dakota Voices for Peace Executive Director Taneeza Islam said.
Islam is not alone. Meet Nieema Thasing, who serves on Elkton’s city council.
“If I had something that I wanted to say, then it was just as it was stated. ‘If you don’t like it here, than you can leave.’ And I said, ‘I love it here. That’s why I’m going to stay and help bring more love and peace,” Elkton Councilwoman, Nieema Thasing said.
Christopher Najarro says his experiences with being told to go back started when he was still in school. Last November he was approached by a man who was upset with where Najarro had parked.
“He went to reach for his phone and he said, ‘I’m calling the cops. I’m calling 911.’ And right before he called 911, he turned to me and said ‘here in America we have parking spaces. If you want to park like that, go back to your filthy country,” Sioux Falls resident Christopher Najarro said.
Born in Guatemala, Najarro moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 10.
“I am a citizen of the United States. Sir, I came here because my country has no opportunities for me,” Najarro said.
“I was born and raised in Michigan. My parents emigrated here 40 years ago to the United States,” Islam said.
“I am from Chicago, born in Chicago, which is in the U.S.A., by the way,” Thasing said.
Islam says South Dakota Voices for Peace is working to provide public education, legal services and advocacy to promote understanding and inclusivity in the community.
“We can’t let white nationalists, as this man was self-proclaimed to be, to have the larger voice. That we as a community may be scared to speak up, but we need to do it and that moment is now,” Islam said.
For more information on South Dakota Voices for Peace or to find out how you can help this non-profit organization, visit their website.