We all have them. Some are recent immigration stories. Others involve our Grandparents or Great-grandparents, but we all have a story or two.
My Swedish Grandpa, my Dad’s father, worked on a ship. When it docked in New York, he jumped ship and started a new life in America. He ended up in Northport, Michigan which was a tiny Swedish area in Michigan. He never got his papers in order and remained an illegal immigrant all his life.
My Swedish Grandma, my Mom’s Mother, immigrated from Sweden and came to be reunited with other family members that had come before. She was young but this country became her country.
My great Aunt Elsa was a missionary to China. She was asked by a local pastor to adopt his daughter and take her to America where she would be safe from the war. The pastors wife had died and he was left with one eldest daughter and five brothers and then the youngest, my cousin. He feared she would be lost in all that. My single Aunt, agreed and began the process to bring her Chinese daughter to the United States. At the time my Aunt was told by her church decimation she had to return to the states, there was a quota for Chinese immigrants. It had been met for that year and the next seven years. Family here in the US contacted our representative in Congress, Rep. Gerald Ford. He worked behind the scenes and asked Congress to enact special legislature to allow Minglan to enter the country with my Aunt immediately. For that, my family is ever grateful for political men who answered frantic phone calls and allowed this to happen.
From these stories, and many more I have forgotten, or was never told, comes my own story. It is one of immigrants who came, seeking the freedom and opportunity that American offered. They worked hard to make a better life for their families. Most of them could never afford to return to their homeland. This became their land, their country. I owe them a debit of gratitude every single day. Never has this been clearer to me than yesterday when Trump’s immigration and travel ban went into effect.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
(Attached to the Statue of Liberty)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 25: 34-46
What is your immigration story?