The Impact of 9/11: OneAmerica Reflects on the Past 20 Years

20 years ago today, a disaster changed the trajectory of life in our country. It was a tragedy for those who lost their lives, and it catapulted our nation to adapt a new and problematic view of immigration and foreign policy.  

Photo of a pro-Muslim rally near the proposed site of a mosque during ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Photo by Hugh Gentry / Reuters

The rise of islamophobia, racially targeted surveillance, watch lists and other policy changes fueled hate in our nation and a distorted view of all immigrants. Our immigrant communities had to act: to counter these racist narratives, to fight these harmful policies, and to protect each other.  

OneAmerica, then known as Hate Free Zone, was founded following 9/11 to address the backlash, hate crimes, and discrimination against immigrant communities of color, primarily Muslims, Arab Americans, East Africans, and South Asians. At the time, there was a lot of fear, anger, and pain for our immigrant communities. We turned our pain into action and used it to unleash our collective power. Immigrant leaders built up this organization from scratch. It was something that had not existed before: a place where immigrants could have a voice, organize, and use their power to create deep policy change.  

Since then, OneAmerica has grown and changed to not just respond and react to harm and advocate for our communities, but to build real, lasting power together. We know that power is not given or owned, it is built when we invest in our community. That is what we do, every day. 

Determined, courageous, relentless and unified, immigrants have built power with OneAmerica to win!  

Over the years, together, we’ve:  

  • Passed the Washington Dream Act, 
  • Enacted the Washington Voting Rights Act to eliminate racially polarized voting and increase the representation of people of color in local office, 
  • Passed the most robust sanctuary city bill in the country, protecting immigrants from deportation, 
  • In coalition, established a state COVID-19 undocumented relief fund, 
  • Led campaigns to significantly expand bilingual education and improve the educational experiences of immigrants and students of color, 
  • Trained people to run for office, electing the most diverse state legislature in Washington’s history with women of color in the forefront, 
  • Advocated to pass the NO BAN Act, that would put in place vital protections against future discriminatory bans (like the Muslim and African bans) could not be issued by any president, ensuring that no one can be banned from the United Sates based on religious or nationality-based discrimination ever again, 
  • And so much more! 

Today, we look back at the last 20 years of organizing for a better future for immigrants and we look forward to continuing to rise and reclaim our freedom. Together, we will continue to make powerful changes in our schools, our communities, and our government for our collective liberation.  

Join us on September 30th at OneAmerica’s 20th Anniversary Celebration: Two Decades of Immigrant Power and Collective Change. Come and hear about the past, present, and future of OneAmerica and to celebrate 20 years of building power, joy, and change. 

In alignment with our values, OneAmerica, along with over 70 organizations, has signed on to a Congressional Resolution set forth on September 10th by U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), and Judy Chu (CA-27) acknowledging the hate, discrimination, racism, and xenophobia that Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Sikh communities across America continue to experience two decades after the September 11 attack. The resolution puts forward a series of recommendations to support those affected by the hateful profiling and targeting that has occurred in the last 20 years. Read the full resolution text here.