Saturday, April 27, 2013

American Immigration History

Docking at Ellis Island
  The 'Golden Years' of American Immigration was a time of special sentimental significance to so many of us Americans. Some years ago I took my young family to the great 'shrines' of New York Harbor.
Mary & Hector Van Risseghem
The Statue of Liberty is special, but our first stop was to Ellis Island. It was here that my ancestors passed through, hoping that they wouldn't be turned away.
  In 1924, the US enacted a very racist immigration policy which contributed to untold world suffering and genocide, during WWII. The Johnson-Reed Act (also called 'the Asian Exclusion Act') remained US immigration policy until 1965. It's aim was "to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity". The terms of the act were:

  • prohibiting the immigration of Middle Easterners, East Asians, &Indians.
  • prohibiting Jews, Italians, & Sicilians as "as the prototype of immigrants who could never be assimilated".
  •  use of the population of the United States in 1890 as the basis for calculating quotas
Lindbergh enters political activism

  America went through a very racist period, during the years between the World Wars. The Ku Klux Klan was at the pinnacle of political influence. Even a US president was a member. 

  Charles Lindbergh openly declared the supremacy of the Scandinavian race. He openly defamed the American Jews and sought to weaken their influence in the national media. Lindbergh was the son of a U.S. congressman and learned early, how to parlay popularity into social activism. By the time the U.S. entered WWII, Lindbergh was greatly discredited and broadly despised.
Darwin, on 'preserving favoured races'

  Charles Darwin published a massive 'scientific' publication to justify racism. While we often refer to the book, "On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life".  Few of us pay attention to the latter part of the title. But it added a sense of justification to open practices of racism in society and public policy.


  An influential member of New York society, Margaret Sanger sought to suppress the populations of Italians & Jews through an organization we now call ' Planned Parenthood'. She argued; "[Slavs, Latin, and Hebrew immigrants are] human weeds ... a dead-weight of human waste ... [Blacks, soldiers, and Jews are a] menace to the race.". "Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need ... We must prevent multiplication of this bad stock."

Post WWII, British imprisoned
several thousand Jews in

 Cyprus, trying to stop them 
from forming an Israeli nation
  There was a world wide persecution of Jews during the 20's, 30's, & 40's. They were explicitly forbidden from immigration to the U.S. & most other nations. Being trapped in Europe led to their mass extermination by Nazi & Soviet governments. Even after WWII, the British held many Jews in concentration camps indefinitely, to inhibit the Zionist repatriation of a Jewish State. It was only through guerrilla war tactics and sheer tenacity that Palestinian Jews eventually declared their independence from a hostile British occupation. Many of modern Israel's heroic leaders were once labeled 'terrorists' by their British occupiers.

Solzhenitsyn Exposes
Soviet Evils
  America changed immigration policy in the 60's. Cold war pragmatism led to open door status for anyone fleeing communist suppression. Cubans flooded Florida to escape Castro's communist oppression  Worldwide public relations battles were played out over the emigration of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Natan Sharansky. When the cold war fizzled from our fears, America's pragmatic openness became less generous.


Haitian Boat People
  What should our immigration policy be? Will pure ideals of equality and generosity be workable?  Will pragmatic concerns for an applicant's wealth, heritage, or education be defensible to the political factions and racial special interests? 

  A former boss of mine in the 90's; objected to my involvement in Senator Phil Gramm's presidential campaign. His most direct criticism was that the senator's wife "doesn't look American" (Wendy Gramm is of Asian ancestry). My direct reply was; "What does an American look like?". He walked away with a fierce disgust, but said nothing because another one of his employees was standing too near, and she was also of Asian ancestry.


  Fortunately, it's getting harder and harder for racists to openly practice their bigotry. But too often they still mask it in justifications of pragmatism. Yes, there are real concerns for having 'open borders'. But bigotry and separatism are not one of my 'excusable' reasons for keeping people out.


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