Thanksgiving celebrates time when we were all immigrants

THANKSGIVING_v2Silver Spring, MD – Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley released the following statement to mark the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

“Thanksgiving is one of our most enjoyable and universally celebrated American holidays. Today, regardless of religious tradition, political persuasion, or social status, many of us will sit down to a wonderful meal, visit family, talk about our union, and maybe, watch some football.

“We all have so much to be thankful for that sometimes we forget about those who are struggling just to find a place to live in peace with their neighbors.  I’m referring of course to the refugees fleeing the hellish life they’ve endured in Syria and other countries.

“The despicable terrorist attacks in Paris have cast a long shadow over these desperate émigrés – with some lumping them all into the ranks of suspected terrorists.

“It’s understandable that people are afraid. Who isn’t?

“Unfortunately, however, some are exploiting that fear for personal or political gain, and, in the process discarding the very principles that make America great.

“Rejecting people running for their lives because of their religion is about as un-American as anything that has been proposed in the war on terror. The mood today is reminiscent of that of pre-war America in 1939 when 937 Jews were fleeing the Nazis. The men women and children aboard the passenger ship St Louis were rejected first by Cuba and then the United States. Two hundred and fifty-four of them ultimately met their deaths at the hands of the Nazis. We look back in shame at that time.

“The truth is that the United States has one of the lengthiest most meticulous immigration processes in the world. If any nation can prevent terrorists from entering its territory it’s the United States.

“Obviously, we cannot take everyone, but we can certainly do our part to help these suffering families. And to refuse any of them on the basis of their religion is flat out un-American.

“We’re are a better country than the one in the world of the fear mongers.

“So, today we commemorate the story of a group of Native Americans who welcomed Pilgrims, who were fleeing religious persecution. We should remember our own history as I remember my ancestors who came to this country fleeing starvation because they were Catholics from Ireland.

“We can and must remember that our country was founded as a nation of immigrants and refugees. Defending America starts by defending that heritage. Happy Thanksgiving.”