Re “Our View: Don’t let fear prevent helping” (Nov. 19): The Bee’s editorial clearly expresses the worthy American tradition of giving haven to refugees from persecution, despite the fear which threatens to overcome us in times of crisis. Throughout American history, the prophets of fear have warned us about domination by the Pope (Irish Catholics), the Mafia (Italians), Marxists (East European Jews), and anarchist terrorists, among many others. Those who saw the “huddled masses” as individuals fleeing persecution and economic hardship in their homelands overcame their fear of the unknown foreigner and focused on our common humanity.
My family experienced both the fear and the generosity of America in the year prior to the U.S. entry into WWII. We were stateless refugees from Germany, who had found shelter in Panama in 1936, where my father taught at the university.
After a coup in 1940, the Panamanian government became anti-immigrant, and we fled to the United States. The immigration officials who came on board in the New York Harbor didn’t want to admit us because my father was viewed as a potential Nazi despite his refugee status. Only through the intervention of a friend in the State Department did we manage to squeak through, but we were granted asylum. Six years later we became American citizens. And 75 years after landing in New York I am still grateful for the door opened for us.
Dieter and Hanna Renning, Turlock
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