I am the son of a refugee. My mother’s family fled Latvia after the Soviet re-occupation of that country at the end of World War II, spent time in a displaced persons camp in postwar Germany, and eventually emigrated through Ellis Island to the United States. They were among the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free that were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty to the United States from a life of oppression behind the Iron Curtain.

I had an interesting experience in a downtown cafe in Rockland recently. President Trump had just announced his executive order banning refugees, and I was speaking with a friend about some of the challenges that I felt our country was facing. As we discussed civil rights, immigration, poverty, and related matters, I found myself briefly and unexpectedly in tears as I contemplated the fact that people like my mother and her family — who posed a threat to no one, and who thrived and enriched their community and this country after losing everything to a brutal and repressive Soviet puppet government — would have been barred from the United States had they experienced the misfortune of being displaced while a refugee ban was in effect.

I live a comfortable life. Nonetheless, I felt (and feel) viscerally threatened by words and actions that demonize refugees and immigrants. I can only contemplate how someone whose ancestral or personal suffering is more immediate might feel in the shadow of such rhetoric.

Rockland City Council has before it a Resolution of Commitment to Promoting an Open, Respectful, Healthy Community. This resolution states — among other things — that Rockland “stand[s] in solidarity with all who are marginalized or threatened” and “oppose[s] any policy on the part of any government or business which scapegoats people, spreads inequality, and intentionally takes rights away from the most vulnerable among us.”

Local words and local action are powerful. They are sometimes more powerful and effective than distant action at higher levels of authority. I hope that this resolution passes. I hope that Rockland affirms its support for those foundational ideals which have allowed people like my family to make lives for themselves in this great nation.

Nathan Davis, Rockland