The following was written by my brother, Marcel Groen. Marcel is the Chairman of the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania. He is a son, a husband, a brother, a father, a grandfather, and friend and colleague of many. In this short but poignant piece however, he represents himself, the son of Holocaust survivors, more than anything else, as an American. It is my honor and pleasure to share my brother’s words.
In the winter of 1942 Marcel Rodrigues went to the embassy in the Hague, the Netherlands, to apply for a visa for himself and his son, Bram. He applied for the visa because he felt that America was the only country in the world that could provide him with hope, safety and freedom.
He was right. His visa was denied, He chose not to try to come here as an illegal immigrant. Oh do I wish he had. Marcel and his son were murdered in Auschwitz on August 13, 1943, ten months later.
If only he had tried to get here as an illegal immigrant-he might not have succeeded, but if he had been successful he would’ve lived. There was no one else or place to go.
Marcel was my grandfather and Bram my uncle.
Americans should never forget why people come here, sometimes legally, sometimes not, but millions have come. They came because America represented opportunity, safety and goodness, in a world that was neither good nor safe. We represent that wonderful experiment called democracy, where we make room for all and provide safety and opportunity for all who come here. Without those immigrants we would be nothing.
We are not perfect as a society. We have a long way to go, but we can and must continue to work towards those lofty goals we believe in.
When we crush those dreams; when we close our borders to those in need; when we forget where we came from and where we want to go; then we will lose our place in the world, than our experiment will have failed. We cannot let that happen. As a people we are too good for that.
There are times when good people must stand up regardless of the consequences. JFK’s Profile in Courage comes to mind.
This is one of those times.
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