“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, remarks before the Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C. (April 21, 1938)
“I have some little notoriety for commiserating with the oppressed condition of the negro; and I should be strangely inconsistent if I could favor curtailing the existing rights of white men, even though born in different lands, and speaking different languages from myself.”—Abraham Lincoln, in a public letter protesting restrictions on immigration (May 17, 1855)
And I remind people all across our country, family values do not stop at the Rio Bravo. There are people in Mexico who’ve got children, who worry about where they’re going to get their next meal from. And they’re going to come to the United States if they think they can make money here. That’s a simple fact. And they’re willing to walk across miles of desert to do work that some Americans won’t do. And we got to respect that, seems like to me, and treat those people with respect.—George W. Bush, news conference (August 24, 2001)
We can tell you from our conversations with people in 24 states, on five Rides into the Heartland, that Americans – spoken to gently about the reality of our immigration system – agree with these former Presidents. The Pew Foundation says so too, according to today’s New York Times:
With presidential contenders on all sides struggling to refine their positions on the prickly issue of immigration, nearly three-quarters of Americans say they support a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, according to a poll published Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
Making our immigration laws sensible and humane, cutting out the economy-killing restrictions and the cruelties, would (among other benefits) advance the cause of human rights. Asylum could become a last resort, instead of a clumsy means to allow people to stay in America when we would welcome them on their own merits if our law allowed it.
Consider Renaz, whom you met in the 2015 Human Rights First video ( http://youtu.be/WMYxkTc6LEQ ).
Renaz is a wonderful music teacher, is raising two kind and brilliant children, and is an exquisite cook. Even Archie Bunker would want her in our country.
We are particularly glad today that Renaz and her children are here, because they are hosting us in Connecticut. The family fed Jeffrey a wonderful Syrian-American dinner topped with homemade ice cream, and paid attention to me (as you see above).
Today was a day of adventure. In other words, there was a scary bit.
The weather was fine. All was quiet at an old Jewish cemetery in Northampton, Massachusetts.
The mountains were lower as we pedaled south along the Connecticut River through the Pioneer Valley. But we were glad the road went between them, not over them.
Holyoke bills itself as the birthplace of volleyball. It had wonderful bike lanes and lots of fine houses.
On this National Doughnut Day, Jeffrey stopped for a free doughnut, where we met Paul, a retired fire suppression system installer.
When he heard about the lack of free counsel for asylum seekers, Paul was reminded of his former business, in which he said “the last guy on the job was always the lawyer.” Paul understands that in any legal encounter, one proceeds alone at one’s peril. That’s why Human Rights First’s pro bono asylum program is vital.
Because yesterday the GPS routed us onto dirt roads and through dank mosquito-infested forests, today we decided to stick to US 5, which the map showed went almost all the way to our destination. It was a good idea . . . until it wasn’t.
In Springfield – you see a bit of it above – Jeffrey pedaled over a busy bridge to stay on US 5 South. At the far end of the bridge, on the exit ramp, he saw a sign: No Bicycles. Why was there no warning until past the point of no return? Jeffrey will point out this hazard to Massachusetts authorities. But that’s for later.
To escape the bridge, we had to move to the left lane and return to downtown Springfield. But to get to the left lane, we had to cross the right lane, and cars were whizzing past us onto the US 5 South ramp, inches from where we were pinned against a guardrail.
Alone, we had no way out.
Jeffrey called 911. He apologized and explained that he was not injured, but trapped. He asked that the police escort him off the bridge. In a few minutes, a state police officer arrived, stopped traffic, and followed Jeffrey into the left lane and to the exit back into Springfield.
Springfield has glorious public buildings in deserted squares. Its side streets are crumbling. We were relieved to escape to the west bank of the Connecticut River over a second (quieter) bridge.
We resumed our southward trip.
Past Six Flags amusement park.
Past distant village steeples.
Through Windsor Locks, then east across the Connecticut River, which is much wider here than when we first crossed it from New Hampshire into Vermont.
Then on tree-lined streets; no more moose crossings.
To our friends Anwar and Reina, who would be our co-pilots if they could!