On immigration, ‘never again’ must be more than a chant

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 12, 2018

In 1939, the MS St. Louis, a German ocean liner, attempted to dock in the United States so that passengers seeking asylum from Nazi Germany could disembark. The U.S. State Department turned them away. Of more than 900 passengers, 254 were murdered; most were killed in Nazi concentration camps.

Last week, on the steps of the International Institute of St. Louis, a service of remembrance was held. Here, in the city sharing a name with the ill-fated ship, women and men from many faiths and nations gathered to keep mindful of this tragic history. Each of those rejected from America’s shores and subsequently killed by Nazis were memorialized, as the place of their murder was read aloud. Near the end of the service, those gathered chanted “never again.” I was among those chanting.

Yet even as I said “never again,” I felt dishonest — dishonest because we are right now doing it again. The U.S. government is turning away thousands of refugees, forcing them to return home, where dangerous and often deadly futures await. Our immigration policy is as mean-spirited and unwelcoming as it was in 1939. While I am glad for those who commit themselves to “never again,” in our time the call must be: Stop turning away our neighbors in need; find ways to be welcoming.

David Greenhaw • Webster Groves

Eden Theological Seminary president

Photo Caption/Credit
Central American families are camped out on a border bridge between Ciudad Miguel Aleman and Roma, Texas, on June 4, 2018. The migrants seeking asylum say they presented their documents to U.S. Customs officials on the bridge. But the officials said the families have to wait on the Mexican side of the bridge because there isn’t enough space for them to be processed. (Molly Hennessy-Fiske/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

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