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Speech to the City Council / In Support of Sanctuary City Status - Colorado Springs, April 25, 2017

Updated on May 2, 2017
The Pilgrims - my ancestors - were America's first refugees.
The Pilgrims - my ancestors - were America's first refugees. | Source

I am here representing the Colorado Springs Socialists, to voice our support of the Green Party’s initiative to make Colorado Springs a Sanctuary City.

Although I am representing my group today, I would like to share my family’s history with you.

I am the granddaughter of immigrants. My grandfathers, Jonathan Dunham and Henry Cobb, Jr., were Separatists. America’s first refugees.

Eleven generations ago, in 1607, under the threat of brutal persecution, the Separatists - my ancestors - attempted to flee England. But the ship’s captain betrayed them; instead of taking them to Holland, he alerted the authorities to their escape plan. They were arrested and imprisoned.

The next year, battered but not broken, they managed to secure another ship. The authorities again tried to stop their passage. The ship’s captain - concerned only with money - abandoned boatloads of women and children in the harbor as HE fled authorities

They finally made it to Holland. But persecution followed them from England, and soon the congregation was again persecuted for their religious beliefs.

The Separatists were never entirely welcome in the Netherlands. They were not allowed to hold any employment outside of hard labor. In 1619, the Netherlands passed a law outlawing Separatist gatherings.

There were also fears of war with Spain, which meant the Inquisition could come to Holland; if that happened, the Separatists would most likely be tortured and killed.

Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock | Source

They had to leave Holland or face the same - or worse - persecution they faced in England. Neither of my grandfathers was able to make the first voyage on the Mayflower; Jonathan lost his wife in Leiden and felt the journey would be too difficult for him and his four young children. He and Henry remained in Holland while the bravest of the congregation set out to the New World.

The entire ordeal was fraught with danger and tragedy. Much like the voyages of modern immigrants and refugees. Those pilgrims barely made it through the first year. It was only because of the understanding and compassion of the Wampanoag Tribe that they survived at all.

We tend to lump all “pilgrims” together, much like we lump all “immigrants” together. Those early settlers were not the Puritans that burned “witches” at the stake. They were not the mercenaries and opportunists that came to the New World only to exploit it. Just like how modern immigrants and refugees aren’t all criminals and terrorists.

They were refugees. Just like many modern refugees, Separatists wanted a place where they could freely practice their beliefs, without fear of being jailed or killed.

There are more similarities between the modern immigration crisis and the plight of the Separatists than there are differences. Colorado Springs has an opportunity to become a beacon of light for both immigrants and refugees, regardless of whether they are escaping religious persecution, war or crushing poverty.

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 6 months ago from Oklahoma

      Great perspective.