Some years ago my wife and I visited a museum in Cobh Ireland. This town was known previously as Queenstown and was a point of departure for Irish immigrants. When I saw the exhibits that portrayed the conditions endured by immigrants so that they could start a new life in America, I was very moved.
My people came to America later than many Irish and Scottish immigrants. Patrick McDonald and James Patterson came to America in the 1870s and Will Lynch brought his family from Wales in 1882. One of his family was my grandmother.
Patrick McDonald’s first house in Hawley PA was a shack. James Patterson went to the coal mines for work, as did many of my other relatives. The Irish faced much prejudice here in America. As they looked for work, many encountered signs saying “Irish need not apply”.
But they endured and slowly, slowly they were able to build lives such that my cousin Bob, my brother and I were the first college graduates on both sides of the family. I and my family have benefitted from the great sacrifices and suffering of these immigrants.
For me, the current crises over immigration has a personal impact. While my family may not have been welcomed, they did pursue opportunity, a pursuit that has greatly benefitted me.
I now live in El Paso TX, a border town rich with a bicultural atmosphere that provides opportunities for immigrants. Young people not only from Mexico but from oppressed countries in Central America as well as the Middle East find opportunities for education and work.
Given my background, how could I possibly support a ban on certain immigrants? How can I possibly ignore the Biblical exhortation to welcome the stranger? Would I not be turning my back on my own immigrant family members?
Yes, I know there are problems of available jobs and crime and infrastructures. The challenges are formidable. But I cannot condone closing doors as the solution.
I am grateful to the McDonalds and Pattersons and Lynchs who endured great hardship not that long ago so that my parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins could all have a better life. Because of them, I stand with those who are struggling to keep doors open.
Reflections: 1. What are your experiences with immigration? Do you see the current crisis as a spiritual issue?
The enclosed is shared in loving memory of James Patterson, Patrick McDonald, Will Lynch, Ellen Lynch (Ducey), and others of my family who opened doors for me by getting onto boats to a new land and enduring poverty, rejection, coal mines and so much more. I am grateful!