Immigration Defines Our Democracy

Today we launch the flippable blog, where we’ll explore issues in politics at the state and local level.

In our first installment, we respond to President Trump’s immigration ban. We reflect on our own immigrant histories, examine our relationship to America’s story, and consider our reasons for founding flippable.


Like so many others (the State Department, members of Congress, heads of state around the world, and much of the American public), we at flippable are dismayed by President Trump’s attempts to ban immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.  Whatever the outcome of the next court ruling, we remain deeply troubled by the undemocratic tendencies that this episode has suggested. Trump’s administration has shown a disregard for consensus and legal precedent, as well as an alarming contempt for judicial independence.

"Democrats have embraced our nation's immigrant past and our nation's immigrant future."

This is not the kind of leadership envisioned in the Declaration of Independence, whose authors believed that governments, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” must pursue the desires and best interests of a “free people.” It’s not the kind of political leadership that so many of our parents and grandparents envisioned when they came to the US from other countries, fleeing tyranny, persecution, and violence.

At flippable, all of us have immigrant roots, origins in other countries and political cultures. Our great-grandparents and grandparents were orphans from Quebec, refugees from China, rail hoppers from Zacatecas, Mexico. They were villagers in rural South India—farmers with little education—who labored to send their children to college. They came to the US and worked as radio operators for bombers in World War II; as strawberry pickers in southern California; as car mechanics; as graduate students; as dental technicians in the army.

After Catherine's grandparents reunited in Milwaukee in 1947, they had five more children together. Pictured above are Catherine's grandparents with their children and two grandchildren in c. 1959.

After Catherine's grandparents reunited in Milwaukee in 1947, they had five more children together. Pictured above are Catherine's grandparents with their children and two grandchildren in c. 1959.

Catherine, our CEO, is the granddaughter of political fugitives from Taishan, China. Her grandfather came to the US in the 1930s and spent nearly twenty years earning the money to bring his family to America. Though he was highly educated, he could only find work in restaurant kitchens, where, whenever he could find a spare moment, he wrote Chinese poetry on scraps of paper and napkins. After seventeen years, he was reunited with his wife and two daughters—all of whom had been tortured by Communist agents in Taishan—but he never again saw his son, who lacked the required paperwork and was never allowed to leave.

Our work at flippable is deeply informed by this immigrant heritage. Because we are the children and grandchildren of immigrants who have suffered under corrupt or autocratic regimes, we don’t take our democratic rights for granted. We’ve had the great gift of growing up American, with distinct American privileges. We’ve attended college, moved freely around the country, and married our chosen partners.

Vanessa's grandmother and great-aunt after their family's journey from Mexico to Los Angeles.

Vanessa's grandmother and great-aunt after their family's journey from Mexico to Los Angeles.

We feel not only gratitude, but also a visceral love for America’s ideals. We cherish living in a country that has given us so many more opportunities than our grandparents and great-grandparents had. At the same time, we understand that democracy is not inevitable. Work is urgently needed, not merely to safeguard our democracy, but to fully extend the protections of justice to all people in America.

We joined together and created flippable out of this longing for a “more perfect Union.” We saw Donald Trump vaulted to office by an unfairly engineered political system. We saw gerrymandering and voter suppression endanger our free elections. We saw how difficult it is for progressive reforms to be enacted, even when they’re demanded by a majority of the public.

"We’ll continue to work toward a 'more perfect' version of our imperfect nation."

Out of our idealistic love for America has come a pragmatic response: we want to flip the nation from Red to Blue, beginning in the states, where problems like voter suppression need to be attacked at the root. We support Democrats because we believe that Democrats better embody our ideals. Unlike the Republican Party—which has thrown its resources into consolidating a plutocracy, repressing women and minorities, and enabling a dangerous president—the Democratic Party has tried to be a government for the people. Our candidates and elected officials have embraced our nation’s immigrant past and our nation’s immigrant future. Progressives have worked alongside those whose ancestors were brought to our nation by force, and those whose lands and communities were scourged in our nation’s founding.

By standing with Democrats, we believe that we stand for democracy, too. We’ll continue to work toward a “more perfect” version of our imperfect nation. We’ll fight for the government that our grandparents voyaged so far and braved so much hardship to find: a government that is just, inclusive, and truly representative.


Join flippable and flip the nation.