In June 1939, a passenger ship named the St. Louis approached the coast of Florida, planning to dock in Miami. The boat was packed with nearly a thousand refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe. Most were Jewish, and they thought they’d find a safe haven in the United States.
They were wrong. President Franklin Roosevelt denied their pleas for help, and the U.S. Coast Guard prevented the St. Louis from reaching our shores. By the end of World War 2, nearly a third of the people on board had been killed by the Nazis.
As Europe emerged from the inferno of war and the Holocaust, nations across the world resolved that people fleeing violence and persecution, like those on the St. Louis, would no longer be met with indifference by other nations. In 1951, the Refugee Convention was signed, and by 1980 Congress enshrined the principle of asylum for refugees in domestic immigration law. Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, America has been a leader in providing humanitarian protections to people fleeing persecution, torture, and genocide.
For decades, these protections have been the law of the land in the U.S. We have sheltered people from across the globe, enriching our communities and proudly standing as a beacon of hope in the process.