Dear Mr. Trump,
We have never met, and yet in less than a week you have already had a profound impact on my life, so I would like to introduce myself. My name is Morgan Gazunis Wyrick. You will notice, that two of my names are foreign. The first, of my mother’s side, is Greek, and the second, which is my last name and my father’s name, as per tradition in American culture, is German. My mother is an American, my father is an American, my brother, who we adopted from Nepal during the Maoist revolution, is an American, and I am an American.
I come from a small cow town in rural Colorado. We had a small farm and kept horses and dogs, until the crash of 2008. In a roundabout way, that crash is probably the reason you are President of the United States, but this is a topic for a completely different letter on another day. I come from a family of traditional fiscal republicans, of the ideology circa 1960-1990.
These were the republicans that valued family, accepted the hungry and poor, and never judged someone else for any reason, whether it be race, ethnic identity, or otherwise. My mother is very strict about that last description. These are the MLK Republicans. Political science is funny in that way because you will notice that I have just described a modern moderate democrat. But, this letter is not intended to start a political debate about what a republican is or isn’t, especially in 2017. This letter is intended to tell a small part of my story.
I am currently serving as a volunteer for a small NGO called Action from Switzerland. I work as one of the coordinators for a women’s center for refugees in Chios, Greece. We offer women’s services, we have an on-staff doctor, and we provide educational services where we can find them. We are very resourceful, because you must be in this kind of environment. The women that I work with daily are wonderful, and I have grown to love them dearly. They were torn from their homes due to violence and warfare. Most of them had to be smuggled illegally across the bay to get here. In this process, they have lost medical records, personal items, dignity, and sometimes lives. Greece, and European society as a whole, is not letting them in. They live in camps that are underserved, and were supposed to be temporary. There is currently a scabies outbreak due to a lack of hot wash facilities and close living quarters. I find the whole situation ironic, and I will tell you why.
I find myself sitting in a very nice beach front apartment looking across the bay at the very place where my great grandparents came from. It was called Smyrna and it was a great academic city, until the Turks came. It is now called Izmir. I only know the stories that my family has told me. I don’t speak Greek and I don’t identify with the Greek culture. Although it is sad, it has provided me with an identity and I have my family to thank for that.
When the Turks came, they committed genocide against the Greeks. A genocide that most of the world has forgotten, including the Greeks themselves, indicated by their lack of willingness to accept the refugees. They came and burned my great grandfather’s village. All but a small handful of the family were killed, but my great grandfather escaped. He took the money that he could and ran to the harbor with one of his brothers. They jumped into the bay and swam from ship, to ship, to ship asking for refuge. A bit like the refugees that I work with daily.
Finally, a French ship let him on board. They were taken to France and were eventually allowed to immigrate to the United States. He became a US Citizen and registered for the draft. Although he did not see active service, all three of his children, including my grandfather, served the US Army. At the time, veterans were granted citizenship. The thought was that if you were willing to die for America, you were as American as the rest of us.
My grandfather, the son of a refugee, served in the Philippines. After the war, he worked on many important projects such as the Manhattan project and subsequently the Atomic Energy commission before it was the Department of Energy. My grandfather made a good life for himself and our family in the United States. It was a time when the United States stood by the writing on the Statue of Liberty “Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free.”
My great grandparents were refugees who became Americans. My family is American and I am an American. My story is no different than that of millions of Americans. Some Americans have forgotten the hardship that got us here. Americans rally in the face of hardship and understand what it means to earn the identity of American. Americans accept refugees because we understand what it means to be faced with warfare and sometimes genocide.
We are people who believe in giving people a chance, which brings me to the point of this letter. Your executive order is un-American. You have banned refugees from countries that are war torn, just like that of my family. You didn’t have to earn the identity of American by risking your life or losing the lives of your family – you were born to it. Now you have banned people who are willing to risk everything to earn the identity of American. As the President of the United States of America, you should give them a chance because that is what we all believe in.
You claim that the reasons are for safety. You know that there is a better way. America needs to lead the world on this issue. Instead you are turning your back on people who need your help.
I urge you, Mr. President, to lift the ban on refugees and earn your identity as the American leader so many voters hoped you would be.