from Molly’s Pilgrim
by Barbara Cohen
illustrated by Michael J. Deraney
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1983
My grandparents were Pilgrims, too. All four of them. They came to America for religious freedom and for opportunity. They were astonishingly brave. They each, in their own time, left their families, everything they knew, put behind everything they feared and sailed into a future full of strangers, strange languages, strange food, strange money. They learned English. They learned how to buy groceries, set up a bank account, build a business. They became citizens. They adopted America and America adopted them.
I am grateful for their stalwart acts, their courageous ventures, their self-sufficiency. This Thanksgiving, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.
My grandparents exhibited:
- Ability to comply with rules that are fair
- Capacity to stand strong and speak out against rules that are not fair
- Compassion for those less fortunate
My grandparents did not give up everything for their own selves, for a better life for themselves. They did it for their (future) children, and for me and for my kids and my own grandchildren and even their grandchildren.
Today my grandparents would not be called Pilgrims, even though they were. They’d be called immigrants, which they also were.
This Thanksgiving I define immigrants as people whose courage, self-determinism, and faith in a bright future, allow them to pull up the roots of everything familiar and re-plant themselves into the unknown.
If that sounded familiar, thanks. (see 11/21/17) We’ve been together for a long time. But I’d like to continue for a bit.
Although we are still a country mostly of immigrants, Uncle Sam has become much more selective of late. Immigrants, notably asylum-seekers, are stopped at our southern border especially. They are treated unkindly, even turned back. Children of immigrants who arrived years ago, but don’t have legal status are worried and confused.
I think my grandparents would still have been allowed entry into this land of opportunity. They would have sought asylum as a result of religious persecution. But that was very early in the last century, over 100 years ago.
As a nation, we have serious problems regarding immigration. This is not new or something that hasn’t been addressed before. But focus has become laser-sharp and pretty unforgiving, especially since 2017. The government separated children from their families without being able to keep track of where each family member was sent. Many are still separated. According to NBC News (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/more-5-400-children-split-border-according-new-count-n1071791), the ACLU reported that, as of Oct. 16, 2019, volunteers are still unable to reach 362 families, for a variety of reasons. The total number of children separated from their families at our southern border is more than 5,400.
Last month, PRI (Public Radio International) reported that Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have signed agreements to allow the US to return asylum-seekers to countries they traveled through on their way here. Now the burden of stopping asylum-seekers from reaching the United States is on the very countries from which most of them are fleeing. Asylum-seekers cannot be sent back to their country of origin. That would violate international law. (https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-10-02/how-trump-s-bilateral-deals-central-america-undermine-us-asylum-system) Because of current policies, the number of people entering the United States through our southern border will continue to shrink.
Even though people want to come here from all over the world, immigration to the United States decreased by about 58% from 2017 to 2018. Interestingly, so far in 2019, about three-quarters of immigrants are from Africa or East Asia..(https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/refugees-and-asylees-united-states)
Only when Uncle Sam and Miss Liberty stand strong and united and open their arms to embrace everyone from sea to shining sea: indigenous people, people brought here against their will, people looking for safety, people looking for opportunity, and those of us who are descended from them all, will freedom finally ring.
--stay curious! (and welcoming)