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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

RESOLUTION WOULD RECOGNIZE S.S. ST. LOUIS TRAGEDY

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

The Senate has passed a resolution sponsored by Senators Kohl (D-WI), Voinovich (R-OH), Brownback (R-KS) and Wyden (D-OR) that recognizes June 6th, 1939 as one of the most shameful days in American immigration history. The text of S. Res. 111 tells the story:

Recognizing
June 6, 2009, as the 70th anniversary of the tragic date when the M.S.
St. Louis, a ship carrying Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, returned
to Europe after its passengers were refused admittance to the United
States.

Whereas
on May 13, 1939, the ocean liner M.S. St. Louis departed from Hamburg,
Germany for Havana, Cuba with 937 passengers, most of whom were Jewish
refugees fleeing Nazi persecution;

Whereas the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s implemented a program of violent persecution of Jews;

Whereas
the Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, pogrom of November 9
through 10, 1938, signaled an increase in violent anti-Semitism;

Whereas
after the Cuban Government, on May 27, 1939, refused entry to all
except 28 passengers on board the M.S. St. Louis, the M.S. St. Louis
proceeded to the coast of south Florida in hopes that the United States
would accept the refugees;

Whereas the United States refused to allow the M.S. St. Louis to dock and thereby provide a haven for the Jewish refugees;

Whereas the Immigration Act of 1924 placed strict limits on immigration;

Whereas a United States Coast Guard cutter patrolled near the M.S. St. Louis to prevent any passengers from jumping to freedom;

Whereas
following denial of admittance of the passengers to Cuba, the United
States, and Canada, the M.S. St. Louis set sail on June 6, 1939, for
return to Antwerp, Belgium with the refugees; and

Whereas 254 former passengers of the M.S. St. Louis died under Nazi rule: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1)
recognizes that June 6, 2009, marks the 70th anniversary of the tragic
date when the M.S. St. Louis returned to Europe after its passengers
were refused admittance to the United States and other countries in the
Western Hemisphere;

(2)
honors the memory of the 937 refugees aboard the M.S. St. Louis, most
of whom were Jews fleeing Nazi oppression, and 254 of whom subsequently
died during the Holocaust;

(3)
acknowledges the suffering of those refugees caused by the refusal of
the United States, Cuban, and Canadian governments to provide them
political asylum; and

(4)
recognizes the 70th anniversary of the M.S. St. Louis tragedy as an
opportunity for public officials and educators to raise awareness about
an important historical event, the lessons of which are relevant to
current and future generations.


The story of the St. Louis was the subject of the Academy Award nominated 1976 film Voyage of the Damned starring Faye Dunaway, Lee Grant and Dame Wendy Hiller. That film was based on a book of the same title by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts.

There are still some survivors alive today including Professor Clark Blatteis at the University of Tennessee here in Memphis (who is also the father of a good friend of mine).

One of the legacies of the St. Louis tragedy and, more broadly, the Holocaust, was the US signing on to the UN Convention on Refugees which would require the US to grant asylum to people fleeing for their lives. We can be proud that for 60 years, we have had a robust refugee program that welcomes people in such circumstances as the passengers of the St. Louis.

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Comments

  1. Rachel's Avatar
    Good initiative. May the victims' souls rest in peace.
  2. Another voice's Avatar
    I wonder if we can count these 2 republican senators in the Pro-CIR camp. Is never too late to recognize that the US makes mistakes in these matters that affect many innocent people.
  3. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Brownback has been a very pro-immigration Senator over the years and Voinovich is a moderate. Both could very well vote with the President this year on a reform bill.
  4. WHY?'s Avatar
    George

    What do you make of this headline?

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&taxonomyName=legislation/regulation&articleId=9133529&taxonomyId=70&intsrc=kc_top

    Is it just to discredit every H1 visa holder? or instill some kind of fear/anger among unemployed tech guys?

    Doesn't the author have any responsibility? rather than just wanting traffic to his website?
  5. Dave Bennion's Avatar
    "We can be proud that for 60 years, we have had a robust refugee program that welcomes people in such circumstances as the passengers of the St. Louis."

    But does it? It seems like we are often 'fighting the last war' when it comes to immigration law. We say never again will we reject refugees fleeing from Nazi death camps, even as we continue to restrict access to asylum in myriad ways. Recent trends include routinely jailing asylum-seekers and adding new roadblocks to the asylum process through Real ID. It took roughly 5 years of shaming by human rights organizations for the US government to admit significant numbers of Iraqi refugees into the country--the numbers are still paltry compared to those killed or displaced. Yes, I believe we've made progress. No, I don't believe the U.S. is very near where it should be in refugee/asylum law.
  6. Propergood's Avatar
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