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!
Dr d Rich you have expressed extremely well ,this is a good world and it is the immigrants that have helped so much,you have a wonderful family and worked hard for what you have accumalated in many and diversed ways ,I have the best respect for you ,winston
Thank you once again for your insightful message. Like many people I have become increasingly curious about my cultural and ethnic roots in the few years. It has feed a sense of pride, wonder, and respect for my “family” and this country of opportunity. However, the powerful and inspiring words on the Statue of Liberty are being diminished, if not erased, by hateful rhetoric and the policies that follow. It is hard not to lose faith when we see the behavior of so many people supporting closing the doors to those ravaged by war, tyranny, and oppression, discussing a return to nuclear options (literal, not political) and the blatant, self righteous judgment of people according to their color, faith, gender, or origin rather than the “content of their character”. Thank you Rich, our only weapon here is to keep the faith and spread the word..
Where I live in Colorado, I am surrounded by immigrants–Hispanic, Asian, and African. I love living in this rainbow of diversity, and I am deeply opposed to bans on immigration. Legal immigrants to the US go through a long and tedious vetting process that ensures that they are not terrorists. In fact, armed toddlers who get their little hands on guns kill more people in the US than terrorists ever have. The current attempt to ban immigrants from the US is NOT, I repeat, NOT a safety issue. It is a racism issue devised by members of the current administration who believe that Islam is inherently evil. They are obsessed with power, control, and whiteness. These so-called Christians are incapable of seeing Jesus in the immigrant, the homeless person, the prostitute, or the prison inmate. They are exact replicas of the Pharisees against which Jesus vehemently railed. I am thrilled to see the courts containing the Executive Branch of our government on the immigrant ban, and I am thrilled to see thousands of protestors in the streets of this country and in town halls making lots of noise and not being polite or subservient. Our country was birthed from revolution, and Jefferson said we need one every twenty years. Resistance to injustice is our moral imperative as it was for Jesus.
He didn’t say you couldn’t have an abortion…he said you have to pay for it yourself if you do. He didn’t say refugees weren’t welcome…he said let’s make sure they are not here to harm us before we let them in. He didn’t say Mexicans couldn’t come in…he said come in the right way, not through the back door.
He’a not taking ANYONE’S freedom, he’s keeping us safe and unfunding things that should never have been funded in the first place.
That’s simply the way I see it…If I’m wrong, please correct me.
Thanks, Rich. Personal history does add significant weight to our own stories. I have recently done some geneology research. Very intetesting and sobering as well to imagine their struggles and their stories.
Compassion for the suffering, the homeless, the marginalized is a spiritual response that calls us to action. I believe.
My immigrant ancestors are very colorful, which is probably not surprising to Dr. Patterson. I also have Irish ancestors. Tolly O’neal (yes, a Protestant) was my mother’s grandfather who came from Ireland and decided to become a cowboy. He went West and started his own ranch and called it the “Anchor D”. He married a woman who was fleeing from domestic violence and had two little girls. One of them was my grandmother. I was raised by a Mexican-American immigrant who took care of me when my parents could not. And then I married a man whose ancestors arrived on a small boat from China to escape the terror of Mau Tse-Tung. My point is that diversity is creates strength. That is why the best universities seek a diverse student body. It creates a rich tapestry of many strands of various cultures and world views. Germany became ethnocentric and anti-immigration during World War II. I say this having a grandfather who was 100% German. They lost the war in part due to a brain drain of people of other races and ethnicities who fled to the US and other parts of the world.
I see people every day and hear their stories. A company close to where I work fired 170 employees. Some had been there for 20 to 30 years. They worked hard, they had insurance but got minimum wages. Oh, they did get unemployment for 6 month. They are having health issues, trouble paying their mortgages and trouble finding a job when some are over 50 years old. And, yes, some have a green card. There is no way on earth that I can turn my back on them.