Says half of all refugees are children under 18
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Nov. 25, 2015) — Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer delivered a speech on Tuesday during a rally that drew more than 200 people to Jefferson Square Park in support of refugees and other immigrants.
Here is the speech:
These past few weeks have been very unsettling to the world, as we have seen despicable acts of terror strike in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
As a community, our hearts break for the victims of terror in Paris, Beirut and Mali, and we say again that we stand in unity with them.
As a country, we are naturally concerned about our safety – and that should always be our top concern. We are a powerful nation both militarily and morally.
We must not let the acts of terror derail either our safety or our moral compass.
We are united in rejecting evil, extremism and language that divides our nation whether from abroad or from our own shores, and we are united in saying that terror will not define us.
What defines us, instead, is our understanding of the fundamental interconnectedness of all humans. As our adopted son and monk from the Abbey of Gethsemane, Thomas Merton, stated in his famous epiphany just blocks from here, we are all connected, “shining like the sun.”
“If only we could see each other that way all the time,” Merton wrote. “There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . .”
The terror events in Paris and elsewhere are frightening. They spark worries that are deeply personal: Am I safe? Are my children safe? Could this happen here?
As a father, husband, son, I share those concerns.
And as mayor, ensuring public safety is my first duty – as is building community resiliency.
But I know that misinformation sparks fear, and that education is power.
So let us be a powerful community mindful of the facts—and let the discussion happening in our country today be based on facts instead of fear.
First, we are a nation of immigrants. That is not a slogan. That is our truth. I am the descendant of German and Irish families who came to this great city. My wife’s family fled to the United States during the Greek Civil War and became immigrants in this great land. As Kentucky Refugee Ministries reminds us: “Bringing your family here to build a better, safer life, is a quintessentially American thing to do.”
Second, half of all refugees are children under the age of 18. And the U.S. resettlement program prioritizes the most vulnerable— women, children, survivors of torture, the elderly and those with special medical needs. People pushed from their homes by fear of persecution, torture or death. They make the heart-wrenching decision to give up everything they know for an uncertain future in a foreign land, because it is the only choice they have.
Third, fewer than 1 percent of all the world’s refugees are ever resettled. And those who are go through an exhaustive, 11-step approval process that takes 18-24 months, including stringent security checks both before and after arrival.
Fourth—and this circles back to my first point— immigrants built this nation. They built this city. And, they are building it still.
Look no further than our doctors, nurses, engineers, and restaurants, bakeries and other businesses popping up all over this community to see the power that immigrants bring. Refugees and other immigrants pay taxes, join PTAs, own businesses, and have an outstanding track record of community involvement.
Just two months ago, members of the Louisville Islamic Center provided lunches for our first responders at our 9/11 memorial ceremony. After the Henryville tornado, a group of citizens who worship at our mosques spent months volunteering to help with the cleanup. And earlier today, they served the needy at Wayside.
Immigrants do not take their citizenship lightly, and they are often my go-to folks for community volunteering.
In closing, let me tell you a brief story of immigration horror in Louisville and how it forever changed our city. The year was 1855, and Irish and German immigrants, most of them Catholic, made up nearly a quarter of Louisville’s population of 43,000, while most “native-born” residents were Protestant.
Here’s the story as told in The Courier-Journal:
“Moving through the main streets of town, the Protestant mobs attacked and slaughtered immigrant Catholics — with ropes, guns, clubs and pitchforks.
“At the end of what the Catholic bishop described as a daylong ‘reign of terror,’ and what history would call Bloody Monday, at least 22 people were dead.
“… most victims were Catholics targeted by mobs who feared the immigrants’ growing numbers.”
They might have been my own Irish and German ancestors. They might have been yours.
Can you imagine what this was like? To be burned out of your home? To be hated in the community where you live, work, pray? To be told, “You are not welcome here”?
Thankfully, Louisville religious and civic leaders came together after Bloody Monday and said … We will not allow this to happen again. We will not be a city of hatred and intolerance.
Tonight, standing here together, we repeat that sentiment.
We are not a city of hate or intolerance.
We are both a city of safety and a city of compassion.
And we reject extremists who want us to see and treat others as less than any one of us. We reject their strategy of division and exclusion.
Our opportunity now is to show how a city of unity and inclusion operates.
So this week, as we celebrate one of the most American of holidays, we must remember what makes us strong as a nation, as a city: Certainly, our armed forces and all of our public safety officials – and as importantly, the human values we all share: compassion, unity, love, respect, and dignity for all.
We show our real power when we are a strong, unified country, and when we stand up for those who are the most vulnerable.
That, my friends, is how we define ourselves as Americans and Louisvillians. Our state motto says it all, “United we stand, divided we fall.”
God bless us all – and Happy Thanksgiving.