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What Kind of People are We Americans?

Nicholas Winton

Nicholas George Winton in Prague, 1939 (National Archives)

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for work.

Our present government shut-down endangers the residence and lives of thousands of immigrant children and contradicts the past policies and practices of our western nations.

Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE (born Wertheim; 19 May 1909 – 1 July 2015) was a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport (German for "children transportation"). Winton found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain.


Character or Cause

It’s been a solid two weeks of turning on the news every night to one scandalous story after another. The finale came Thursday in a meeting on immigration when President Trump spoke his now infamous line about people from Africa coming from “s***hole countries”.

While we protest with shock and outrage that these lies and vulgarities are not part of the true fabric of our country, the truth is that they are. The reason that they are is because we have put causes over character.

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Let’s Remember Where We Came From

Statue of Liberty

Recently I visited a car dealer to test drive a new car in a southern American city. The young salesman who showed me and my friend around was from the Middle East – a professional, well-spoken Palestinian named Daniel. As I concentrated on my test drive, my friend chatted amiably with Daniel about his background. We discovered that he had come to the United States alone at the age of 17 from a war torn Gaza Strip in Palestine, hoping for a better life and eventually finding one. But there were no supportive relatives here to help him out. He had lived in a tiny rented room and faced many hardships alone to get where he was today. He got a degree in business, joined the U.S. military to serve as an Arabic interpreter, and volunteered to help in his community. He was also very patriotic to his new country (America) and grateful for the help she had given him.

Still, his family is back in the Middle East and he has rare opportunities to see them. And as we delved further into his experience he confessed that he often faced prejudice – especially from the younger generation. Without his complaining too much, I could see this was very hurtful – and I felt embarrassed and even angry that people who had themselves come from immigrants behaved so badly as Americans.

I am a second generation immigrant from Sweden – with English roots further back on my mother’s side. Although my parents were able to send me to university and ensure I had good job prospects, my father’s family had faced discrimination and poverty also in the early 1900’s as they sacrificed and worked hard to become Americans. As I thought about the difference between my young adult opportunities and Daniel’s, I was thankful for the many things I had taken for granted – like a safe home, medical care, and a loving family around me.

I don’t want to forget where I came from – I don’t want to regard myself as more privileged or deserving than others – even though my parents naturally wanted a better life for me than they themselves had. And I hope that young Americans today – further removed from their own immigrant roots – will remember that too.

Our Declaration of Independence states that “All men [and women] are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights.” If we choose to forget those principles it can only mean the decline of our nation and a loss of what our forefathers fought hard to secure for all of us.