As a descendant of the once entirely unwelcome Irish immigrants to Lewiston, I am both saddened and ashamed that more than a 150 years later, history is still repeating itself on the banks of the Androscoggin.
For those who are interested in Lewiston’s history — or who think it matters — here is a hauntingly relevant quote from “Historic Lewiston: A Textile City in Transition,” by James S. Leamon, published in 1976:
“… The Irish immigrants began arriving around 1850. The Irish were generally unskilled refugees from the potato famine in their homeland of Ireland. They came to Lewiston in search of jobs with the hope for a better future … To many of Lewiston’s Yankee inhabitants, the presence of the Irish represented a real threat to their social and cultural traditions. The Irish refugees were very poor and often needed public welfare. This was a new problem to Lewiston. Never before had so many people needed assistance. The poor Irish refugees did not have money for housing … The Irish brought with them a different religion and strange customs …”
Asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants — they are us, we are them.
Maura Murphy, Yokohama, Japan