The sidewalks outside the White House are teeming with life again, a welcome sight after more than a year closed to pedestrians. Cue the protesters, a reminder that free speech is a bedrock American value – and a sign that, despite its challenges, Washington remains a beacon of hope for Americans of many proud national origins.
This week, it was Cuban Americans, shouting “Libertad!” – liberty – and wearing “SOS Cuba” T-shirts in support of the rare protests taking place on the communist island nation.
“We want a military intervention to throw out the regime,” says Havana native Camilo Sanchez, a Cuban flag draped over his shoulders.
On Sunday, it will be Belarusian Americans staging a rally, on nearby Freedom Plaza. The former Soviet republic’s opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, will be in Washington next week for meetings, including at the White House. Her supporters view her as president-elect of Belarus, after strongman Alexander Lukashenko claimed electoral victory last summer amid allegations of widespread fraud.
Belarusian immigrant Denis Baranov, who arrived here as a teen 20 years ago, tells me the best outcome of Ms. Tsikhanouskaya’s visit would be quick U.S. actions that “really hurt Lukashenko and his cronies” – say, stricter economic sanctions.
Haitian Americans, too, are watching the Biden administration closely after the July 7 assassination of Haiti’s president. And even though Haitian authorities requested a U.S. military intervention to stabilize the country, Haitian Americans are wary of the idea, given the U.S.’s fraught history there.
Each country’s situation is unique, but there’s a common thread: the deep connection many U.S. immigrants feel to their native land.