The UNH Blog

Continuing our Committment to Immigrants and Refugees

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The end of the year is a time many people go on vacation, see family, and celebrate the holidays. It’s frequently when we look back upon the year behind us and make resolutions for the year ahead.

To take a break from the buzz of New York City and enjoy some sun in the midst of a northeast winter, my wife and I recently took a trip to Key West. It was on this vacation that I was reminded of the important work waiting for me back home.

At the end of our trip our catamaran came across a migrant, bundled up in a sleeping bag, paddling a tiny inflatable mattress with a broomstick. Just three miles from the shore of the United States, our captain radioed the Coast Guard who came and picked him up. The closest land was the island nation of Cuba 90 miles away, but who knows from where he ventured, how many days he fought ocean currents, thirst, and hunger in the hopes of reaching our shores.

From what life he was escaping I don't know, but my heart broke twice as this drama unfolded before us. Once for this man, who undoubtedly will be brought to a detention center before being sent back to his home country, and a second time for the lack of humanity in my fellow travelers. For the most part they seemed indifferent to his suffering, happy to simply snap pictures without reflecting on the broader implications they were witnessing as a fellow human being with nothing but an air mattress and a broom floated near a boat carrying vacationing Americans.

I know countless tragedies like this play out daily across the world, but there is something about seeing it in play out in front of your eyes that is truly humbling. With this experience I approach 2017 with a renewed commitment to fight for all New Yorkers, and particularly our immigrant and refugee neighbors.

by Kevin Douglas, UNH Co-Director of Policy and Advocacy.
Contact Kevin at

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