7 families who lost loved ones that Trump also should have invited to his joint address.

As controversy over Donald Trump's immigration executive order continues to swirl, in his first-ever joint speech to Congress, he addressed his personal guests Jamiel Shaw, Jessica Davis, and Susan Oliver — whose family members were killed by undocumented immigrants.

Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/Getty Images

"To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question," the president said. "What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?"


It's impossible not to feel for those who have lost loved ones to senseless acts of violence.

The urge to make meaning and place blame in the wake of a tragedy is powerful. But for the president to exploit these families by grouping them together and focusing on the perpetrators' immigration status sends a dishonest and destructive message: that undocumented immigrants are inherently violent, criminal, and not to be trusted.

We can litigate this until we're blue in the face, but it won't change the fact that the president's message is not just damaging — it's wrong. Studies show that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than U.S. citizens, and, more anecdotally, that the same goes for undocumented immigrants.

Not only are immigrant families touched by violent crime just as often as the families of those who are born in the U.S. — many are specifically targeted because of their immigrant status.

Srinivas Kuchibholta. Photo by Mahesh Kumar A/AP.

If President Trump truly wanted to use his first speech to Congress to honor families whose loved ones have died senselessly and tragically, he could have also invited...

1. The family of Srinivas Kuchibholta, an engineer from India who was murdered at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, last week.

His assailant allegedly yelled, "Get out of my country" before fatally shooting him.

Srinivas Kuchibholta's wife Sunayana Dumala. Photo by Orlin Wagner/AP.

2. The family of Luis Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who was beaten to death by four high school football players in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, in 2008.

One purportedly told the 25-year-old factory and field worker to, "Tell your Mexican friends to get the fuck out of Shenandoah."

Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Photo by Rick Smith/AP.

3. The family of Won-Joon Yoon, a Korean graduate student, who was murdered by a white supremacist while pursuing a computer science degree at Indiana University.

Won-Joon Yoon's parents. Photo by Michael Conroy/AP.

4. The family and friends of Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, a Saudi student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, who died from his injuries after being attacked during a night out in October.

Students at UW-Stout hold a vigil for Hussain Saeed Alnahdi. Photo by Marisa Wojcik/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP.

5. The family of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant killed by teenagers in Patchogue, New York, in 2008, as part of a game called "beaner-hopping," where the group would hunt and beat local Latino men.

Photo by Craig Ruttle/AP.

6. The family of Arlindo Goncalves, a 72-year-old, homeless, Cape Verdean immigrant, who was killed by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, in 2009.

Anabela Fernandes, niece of Arlindo Goncalves. Photo by Tim Correira/The Enterprise.

7. The family of Joseph Ileto, a postal worker originally from the Philippines, who was killed by a white supremacist during a shooting spree at a Jewish Community Center.

Photo by Randi Lynn Beach/AP.

For President Trump to highlight the few heinous crimes committed by a vanishingly small number of undocumented immigrants while ignoring the violence committed against the broader immigrant community is shameful.

"As we speak tonight, we are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens," President Trump declared. He went on to propose a new office — Victims of Immigration Crime Enforcement — to serve victims of violent crime committed by undocumented immigrants.

But immigrants, like the rest of us, aren't, for the most part, "gang members, drug dealers, and criminals" — they're just people. And just like U.S.-born citizens, a tiny fraction of them do horrible, unforgivable thingsthough, it bears repeating, at a lower rate than those who were born here.

Most immigrants go shopping, play basketball, go to work, fall in love, get bored, drink whisky, watch TV, hug their kids, and generally behave the way most normal human beings behave.

Relatives of Srinivas Kuchibholta attend his funeral. Photo by Mahesh Kumar A/AP.

Immigrants who commit deadly crimes don't represent the vast majority who just want to live their lives and raise their families in peace and security, and not be hassled — or worse — for it.

It's perfectly reasonable to argue for stronger enforcement of immigration laws — in a humane, fact-based manner.

It's not OK to implicitly label all undocumented immigrants "killers" and "thugs."

If President Trump truly wants to make America great, he can start by acknowledging that whether or not we were born here or came here with the right paperwork in order, we're all human. And we all deserve to feel safe.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."