Amid all the furor over Donald Trump's proposal to bar all Muslim immigrants from the US, it is easy to forget that almost all of us who happen to be US citizens through the accident of birth, unless we happen to be descended entirely from either native Americans or from English-speaking white Protestant Northern European ancestors, are Americans only because we have ancestors who were members of immigrant groups which were hated, feared and discriminated against as much as, if not even more than, Muslim immigrants are being targeted today.

A good reminder of this is a 2012 article by Italian-American writer Ed Falco, author of the novel The Family Corleone, which become the basis for Mario Puzo's The Godfather movie, called When Italian immigrants were 'the other'. See

Falco writes:

"In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where there is opposition to the building of a mosque, protesters are reported to have gathered at the construction site, shouting. 'Islam is not a religion!'. When I read this in my local newspaper, I thought about how the people of Murfreesboro's Islamic community must have felt at the sight of their neighbors rallying against them and their religion."

Falco then goes on to describe what he calls "the largest mass lynching in U.S. history" which took place in New Orleans in 1891 - against Italian-Americans

"After nine Italians were tried and found not guilty of murdering New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessey, a mob dragged them from the jail, along with two other Italians being held on unrelated charges, and lynched them all. The lynchings were followed by mass arrests of Italian immigrants throughout New Orleans, and waves of attacks against Italians nationwide."

Falco continues:

"What was the reaction of our country's leaders to the lynchings? Teddy Roosevelt, not yet president, famously said that they were 'a rather good thing'. The response in The New York Times was worse: A March 16, 1891 editorial referred to the victims of the lynchings as '...sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins.' An editorial the next day argued that: 'Lynch law was the only course open to the people of New Orleans.'

John Parker, who organized the lynch mob, later went on to be
governor of Louisiana."

After also describing a riot outside a Catholic church in New York City on December 24, 1806 by protesters against Christmas Eve ceremonies going on inside, which lead to dozens of injuries and the death of a policeman, Falco concludes:

"The decades go by, they turn into centuries, and we forget. We've forgotten the depth of prejudice and outright hatred faced by Italian immigrants in America. We've forgotten the degree to which we once feared and distrusted Catholics. If we remembered, I wonder how much it might change the way we think about today's immigrant populations, or our attitudes toward Muslims?"

These words are worth taking to heart as we approach Christmas, a holiday based on love and resoect for all human beings of every race, religion and national origin.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from many different parts of the world, and many religious backgrounds, obtain work visas and green cards. Roger's email address is