Pramila Jayapal India My first ideas that the U.S. was not the fair and just land of democracy I had always imagined it to be really happened outside the country. I was working internationally doing social justice work, and I began to really question U.S. foreign policy. Since coming here when I was sixteen I think I was seeing through rose-colored glasses. I had this sense that compared to other parts of the world where I had lived, this country was much less corrupt; that it has a much stronger hold on democracy, true democracy. When I started the Hate Free Zone of Washington, it was right after September 11. I had just moved into my house in Rainier Valley; I set up my TV and watched in disbelief what was happening in New York. I was horrified not only for the terrible tragedy that was occurring but also for the repercussions I knew it was going to have. I had been involved with immigrant and refugee communities here, and over the next week my phone began to ring with stories confirming my fears. The Sikh community was the first to be harassed with accusations of being terrorists, and there was panic in the South Asian community. Muslim families were pulling their kids out of school and getting harassed by neighbors. I remember thinking, “This is unbelievable, this is America!” Then I realized that I had been keeping my own son close to home and choosing not to wear my traditional Indian clothing. I talked to a friend about the situation. It was amazing that there were no help lines for hate crimes; no one seemed to be aware of the immigrant communities. We started calling politicians and were eventually offered the opportunity to meet with Jim McDermott. I had never been involved in local politics, and I remember thinking “I’m going to meet with a congressman tomorrow; what will I say?” I drafted a mission statement for the HFZ modeled on a similar organization in San Francisco. It held that Washington state would welcome people of all races and religions and take a stand against discrimination. When we met, McDermott agreed that something should be done and asked if I had a suggestion. “What about a press conference with the mayor and other politicians. How about we do it tomorrow?” At that point he looked at me and asked, “Who are you?” We laughed, and then the next day we did just that, to great response. For many months I thought the Hate Free Zone would be just a small project, but the backlash has continued and the need for our advocacy work has only grown. I recently interviewed an immigrant we had helped whose store in the Rainier Valley was raided by the government. I asked him, “After everything you have been through, why would you want to be a citizen?” and he answered, “Where else would I go? I got reimbursed for half of what I lost. It took four years, but where I come from I wouldn’t have gotten anything.” It is an important thing to remember that justice is not relative, but really for many people it is.