Statement from TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen on President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration
On every level, I am descended from immigrants and refugees.
The Transport Workers Union was built by immigrants and refugees. So was NY’s subway system. The founder of our great union, Michael J. Quill, fled Ireland in the 1920’s, the victim of political and religious persecution. The Irish men and women who formed the backbone of my union in its earliest days came to the US to escape these same forms of discrimination. They came for the economic opportunity they were denied in Ireland.
My granny came from Derry City in the north of Ireland. She was part of the great successive waves of immigration to the US from Ireland. She came seeking freedom and an opportunity to raise a family in peace. I would be dishonoring her memory, and the memory of the founders of the TWU, if I did not speak out against the inhumane and discriminatory Executive Order on immigration signed by President Trump last week.
The story of the TWU is intertwined with the story of immigration. In its earliest days, immigrants from Ireland, Italy, England and Germany provided the bulk of our members and leaders. As the face of immigration has changed, so has the TWU. Chapters of our story were written by Black workers who migrated from the US South to escape persecution and violence. New chapters are being written by members and officers from the Caribbean, Bangladesh, countries of the former Soviet Union, Nigeria and dozens of other nations.
Like our founders, and all of my grandparents, they are coming for economic opportunity and to be free from religious and political persecution. They are welcome in the TWU.
I am not someone who always wears his religious faith on his sleeve, although anyone close to me recognizes how my Irish Catholic upbringing and adult Christian faith impact my life and the decisions I make every day. They help guide me as a father, a husband, a worker, a citizen and a union president. These beliefs have combined with my sense of personal and institutional history to lead me to speak out against barring refugees from entering the US, against giving a preference to members of one faith over another, and against denying sanctuary to people in desperate need of it. President Trump’s order is in opposition to traditional Christian values and teachings.
Personally, organizationally, and spiritually, I am the descendant of immigrants and refugees. I am proud to be such. I stand with my Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and non-believing sisters and brothers against efforts to demonize every Muslim as a potential terrorist. I stand with all those calling for a fair and humane immigration policy that provides welcome and comfort to the victims of war and persecution. This is a real American response, the correct response. And it’s the reason my granny was welcomed with open arms when she sought refuge from the persecution against Catholics in the north of Ireland all those years ago.