A little over a week ago, one of my great-aunts passed away. She was an impressive woman by all accounts – not to mention that she lived for 97 years. Her death made me recall the countless stories she told about the old days in Portland when Italian immigrants were escaping abject poverty in search for better lives.

Similarly, my Franco-American relatives migrated to Maine for economic opportunities. Over the short course of a century, both sides of my family came to Maine for opportunities and gave so much back.

These musings about my multicultural family should not come as a surprise, as I suspect many of us, grandchildren of immigrants, are giving much thought to the Trump administration’s Muslim ban. Every generation has welcomed foreign cultures to U.S. shores, and each has encountered its struggles to find acceptance.

My great-aunt’s stories were filled with a deep sense of community and shared culture, but they also reminded me of what my relatives had to endure. Derogatory terms were used to describe Italian- and Franco-Americans, and cultural myths led to prejudice and exclusion. Very few of my relatives now speak Italian or French; the drive to fit in and avoid discrimination resulted in letting go of our beautiful, romantic languages. As a child, I was told that being Catholic made me a second-class citizen, and I remember how groundbreaking it was to elect the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.

My sense of family, culture and community runs deep, and it makes me ache to imagine what my small piece of America would look like if my family had been banned from seeking refuge in America. Everyone would have lost.

One of my great-grandmothers had a lunch cart serving sandwiches to the Italian laborers. Maybe you’ve heard of Amato’s Italian sandwiches? Another of my great-grandmothers was a midwife who delivered the babies of Italian and Jewish families in Portland’s Little Italy neighborhood. My Franco-American relatives worked in the Pepperell Mill in Biddeford and owned a corner store where Mémère sold her tourtière (pork pie) during the holidays. I can’t help but think of my own family history when I see halal markets and restaurants opening in Portland.

All of us can cite stereotypes associated with our heritage. If we’re honest, we can recall times when we’ve been guilty of stereotyping and joking about cultures other than our own. At the same time, I know that my life has been enriched by what I have learned from friends and colleagues across cultures. I can’t imagine a life without difference in a democracy.

The essential belief that all people are created equal is foundational to what makes our country a proud and powerful nation. The Constitution provides checks and balances that help policymakers make decisions based on a common view of humanity. This country is built on the legacy of immigrants like my great aunt and my grandparents. Like our Muslim brothers and sisters, we are immigrants, too.

As a second-generation daughter of immigrants, I am no longer looked upon as a foreigner. I have had the privilege of earning two college degrees; I own a house; I travel at will, and I earn a wage my immigrant relatives could never have imagined. I’m rarely the brunt of discriminatory acts, and my loyalty to America’s values seldom has been questioned, until recently.

My hope for immigrants from the seven banned majority-Muslim countries is that their future will hold experiences similar to my own and that those politicians who have been elected to uphold our Constitution can see beyond their misplaced fear.

It is time for those of us whose families made landfall on Ellis Island to take Lady Liberty seriously. She’s not joking when she says: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” My immigrant family took it seriously, and so do I.