As many know, Woody Guthrie wrote a poem, later turned into a song, “Deportee.” The story behind that poem, as Loretta Carr retells it in The Sun newspaper, recounts the deportation of 28 Mexican citizens from the U.S. in 1948. They were deported after the harvest as part of the federal Bracero Program as a reward for their hard labor in California’s Ag fields. To most they were faceless, nameless people and when the transport plane they were in on their way out crashed, all aboard perished and the Mexican workers were buried in a mass grave. No one knew their names until many years later when a book about the incident was written. The line by Guthrie still rings its plaintive cry,” All they will call you will be… deportees.”
Another story comes up as a recent reminder during Holocaust Remembrance Day about 935 desperate Jews, men, women and children, fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939. Later many thousands would be turned away, mostly children. Why? The main reasons put forward were that these foreigners posed a threat to the U.S., and what was happening in Europe was not our business. Plain old anti-Semitism was rarely if ever mentioned. A glance at some of the anguished faces of the ship’s passengers tells the story in a few heart-rending visuals. Does this sound and look familiar?
There is an opportunity for us here and now in this time of religious bigotry and bans coming from the Trump Administration to counter the past and make the present a safe harbor and secure environment for our local immigrant population regardless of religion or country of origin. Now is our chance to correct the disgraces of the past and give our support and protection to those who need it in this time of crisis. Now we can answer the call to stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends and fellow workers and let them know, “We have your backs!”
Please don’t let this opportunity pass. There may not come another.
Will Shonbrun, Boyes Springs