As the first-generation offspring of a refugee mother and an immigrant father, I find our society’s current response to the international refugee crisis disturbing.

In elementary school, we were taught to understand the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty – “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

My mother and her parents walked across Europe fleeing the Soviets, desperate to reach the United States. My grandfather understood America to be the very best alternative, a country of democracy and opportunity, a country founded by refugees and immigrants.

They spent five years in a displaced persons camp, learning English and preparing to start their lives over. They made it to Ellis Island.

My father spent World War II in Japan, too young to be conscripted.

My parents met while studying for their graduate degrees in New York.

Americans, please trust the stringent vetting process in which first the U.N. Refugee Agency, and then the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Service researches and evaluates the background and references of those few who are eventually granted an entry visa.

Have courage and trust. Try not to succumb to the fear those who terrorize seek to instill. Do not abandon the values this country was built upon. Have at least as much courage and decency as do our neighbors to the north.

America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. And, perhaps, the home of the fearful not so much …

Jan Semba