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  • Think Your Ancestors Were Legal Immigrants? THINK AGAIN.

    <span class="ev_code_RED">Think Your Ancestors Were Legal Immigrants? THINK AGAIN.</span>

    "There's nothing people are more proud of than these huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It's based on a very skewed or no knowledge of history.

    Palm Beach Post
    By Brian Donohue
    July 29, 2007

    There are many solid arguments for why the United States should not grant legal status to illegal immigrants, as proposed in the Senate immigration reform bill quashed last month.


    But throughout the immigration debate, one particular mantra was heard from opponents of legalization, perhaps more than any other:

    "My ancestors came here legally.''

    So too, the argument holds, must today's immigrants. We're a nation of laws, we must be consistent, and we must not reward law breakers.

    It's a mighty handy argument that worked wonders for opponents of the legalization bill. It's logical, and draws a clear moral distinction between previous generations of law-abiding immigrants and today's border-jumpers. It heads off allegations of xenophobia, allowing the speaker to say it's not immigrants he or she is against, just illegality.

    It works, too, because it rings true with Americans. The images burned into our brains of previous immigration waves come largely from newsreels and photos of immigrants disembarking at Ellis Island, one at a time, orderly, legally.

    There's one problem with the argument. It's utter hogwash.

    First of all, for hundreds of years, as immigrants poured in by the hundreds of thousands from the 1600s to the early 1900s, there were simply no federal immigration laws to break.

    Unless you were a criminal or insane (or after 1882, Chinese), once you landed here, you were legal.

    Crediting yesteryear's immigrants with following the laws is like calling someone a good driver because they never got caught speeding on the Autobahn.

    "Only 1 percent of people who showed up at Ellis Island were turned away,'' said Mae Ngai, author of "Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America.''

    "What that statement is ignorant of is that we didn't always have restrictions. It's a fairly recent phenomenon.''

    Level the playing field hypothetically, and the argument becomes even more preposterous.

    Imagine today's immigration laws, which make it impossible for most poor foreign farmers to immigrate legally "” in effect in, say, 1849.

    Somewhere in Ireland, a starving farmer turns to his family, their mouths green from eating grass in the midst of the potato famine.

    "We could escape to America and have food to eat,'' the farmer says. "But I'd never do that without a visa. That would be a violation of U.S. immigration law.''

    Ridiculous, of course. That farmer would have done exactly what today's Mexicans, Chinese and Guatemalans are doing by the millions "” get to the United States so they can feed their families, and worry about getting papers later.

    Which brings us to the second reason the "my ancestors came legally'' argument is absurd.

    It's because lots of people's ancestors simply didn't.

    Once Congress put immigration quotas in place to keep out less desirable Eastern and Southern Europeans in 1921, they began sneaking in by the thousands.

    On June 17, 1923, the New York Times reported that W.H. Husband, commissioner general of immigration, had been trying for two years "to stem the flow of immigrants from central and southern Europe, Africa and Asia that has been leaking across the borders of Mexico and Canada and through the ports of the east and west coasts.''

    A story from the Sept. 16, 1927, New York Times describes government plans for stepped up Coast Guard patrols because thousands of Chinese, Japanese, Greeks, Russians and Italians were landing in Cuba and then hiring smugglers to take them to the United States, illegally.

    Two years earlier, the immigration service reported that 1.4 million immigrants might be living illegally in the U.S., according to the immigration service's 1925 annual report.

    "The figures presented are worthy of very serious thought, especially when it is considered that such a great percentage of our population ... whose first act upon reaching our shores was to break our laws by entering in a clandestine manner,'' the report found.

    The problem got so bad that the government was forced to legalize an estimated 200,000 illegal European immigrants by a process called pre-examination. These days, the process would be called amnesty.

    Clearly, if everyone's grandparents said they immigrated legally, someone's grandparents were lying.

    "When people cite their grandparents, they're basically operating with a very limited understanding of what immigration was back then,'' said Edward O'Donnell, author of ``1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History.''

    "There's nothing people are more proud of than these huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It's based on a very skewed or no knowledge of history.''

    Stanford University history professor Richard White discovered that after he began researching a book on his family's immigrant past.

    White found his grandfather tried to immigrate from Ireland through Canada in 1936 because he could not get a visa under the quota laws.

    "He tried to come through Detroit. It was hard to get caught at Detroit, but he managed to get caught,'' White said. Back in Canada, his grandfather called his brother, a Chicago police officer, who crossed the border and met him there. The two then walked to Detroit, his brother flashing his Chicago policeman's badge to U.S. customs officers who waved the pair through.

    "I wouldn't be here, my brothers wouldn't be here if illegal aliens had been rounded up and dragged out,'' said White, a 1992 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

    Few people say what White does in public. But since Ngai wrote her book in 2005, she has heard from some of them. They're not going on talk shows, blogging or writing letters to newspaper editors. But they're out there, even if they don't know it.

    Perhaps if the Senate's legalization bill comes around again, their story could be a rallying cry for those in favor of amnesty.

    "Their voice drops to a whisper,'' Ngai says. "And they say to me, 'You know, my grandparents came illegally.'''

    (Brian Donohue covers immigration issues for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He can be contacted at bdonohue(at)starledger.com.)

  • #2
    <span class="ev_code_RED">Think Your Ancestors Were Legal Immigrants? THINK AGAIN.</span>

    "There's nothing people are more proud of than these huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It's based on a very skewed or no knowledge of history.

    Palm Beach Post
    By Brian Donohue
    July 29, 2007

    There are many solid arguments for why the United States should not grant legal status to illegal immigrants, as proposed in the Senate immigration reform bill quashed last month.


    But throughout the immigration debate, one particular mantra was heard from opponents of legalization, perhaps more than any other:

    "My ancestors came here legally.''

    So too, the argument holds, must today's immigrants. We're a nation of laws, we must be consistent, and we must not reward law breakers.

    It's a mighty handy argument that worked wonders for opponents of the legalization bill. It's logical, and draws a clear moral distinction between previous generations of law-abiding immigrants and today's border-jumpers. It heads off allegations of xenophobia, allowing the speaker to say it's not immigrants he or she is against, just illegality.

    It works, too, because it rings true with Americans. The images burned into our brains of previous immigration waves come largely from newsreels and photos of immigrants disembarking at Ellis Island, one at a time, orderly, legally.

    There's one problem with the argument. It's utter hogwash.

    First of all, for hundreds of years, as immigrants poured in by the hundreds of thousands from the 1600s to the early 1900s, there were simply no federal immigration laws to break.

    Unless you were a criminal or insane (or after 1882, Chinese), once you landed here, you were legal.

    Crediting yesteryear's immigrants with following the laws is like calling someone a good driver because they never got caught speeding on the Autobahn.

    "Only 1 percent of people who showed up at Ellis Island were turned away,'' said Mae Ngai, author of "Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America.''

    "What that statement is ignorant of is that we didn't always have restrictions. It's a fairly recent phenomenon.''

    Level the playing field hypothetically, and the argument becomes even more preposterous.

    Imagine today's immigration laws, which make it impossible for most poor foreign farmers to immigrate legally "” in effect in, say, 1849.

    Somewhere in Ireland, a starving farmer turns to his family, their mouths green from eating grass in the midst of the potato famine.

    "We could escape to America and have food to eat,'' the farmer says. "But I'd never do that without a visa. That would be a violation of U.S. immigration law.''

    Ridiculous, of course. That farmer would have done exactly what today's Mexicans, Chinese and Guatemalans are doing by the millions "” get to the United States so they can feed their families, and worry about getting papers later.

    Which brings us to the second reason the "my ancestors came legally'' argument is absurd.

    It's because lots of people's ancestors simply didn't.

    Once Congress put immigration quotas in place to keep out less desirable Eastern and Southern Europeans in 1921, they began sneaking in by the thousands.

    On June 17, 1923, the New York Times reported that W.H. Husband, commissioner general of immigration, had been trying for two years "to stem the flow of immigrants from central and southern Europe, Africa and Asia that has been leaking across the borders of Mexico and Canada and through the ports of the east and west coasts.''

    A story from the Sept. 16, 1927, New York Times describes government plans for stepped up Coast Guard patrols because thousands of Chinese, Japanese, Greeks, Russians and Italians were landing in Cuba and then hiring smugglers to take them to the United States, illegally.

    Two years earlier, the immigration service reported that 1.4 million immigrants might be living illegally in the U.S., according to the immigration service's 1925 annual report.

    "The figures presented are worthy of very serious thought, especially when it is considered that such a great percentage of our population ... whose first act upon reaching our shores was to break our laws by entering in a clandestine manner,'' the report found.

    The problem got so bad that the government was forced to legalize an estimated 200,000 illegal European immigrants by a process called pre-examination. These days, the process would be called amnesty.

    Clearly, if everyone's grandparents said they immigrated legally, someone's grandparents were lying.

    "When people cite their grandparents, they're basically operating with a very limited understanding of what immigration was back then,'' said Edward O'Donnell, author of ``1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History.''

    "There's nothing people are more proud of than these huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It's based on a very skewed or no knowledge of history.''

    Stanford University history professor Richard White discovered that after he began researching a book on his family's immigrant past.

    White found his grandfather tried to immigrate from Ireland through Canada in 1936 because he could not get a visa under the quota laws.

    "He tried to come through Detroit. It was hard to get caught at Detroit, but he managed to get caught,'' White said. Back in Canada, his grandfather called his brother, a Chicago police officer, who crossed the border and met him there. The two then walked to Detroit, his brother flashing his Chicago policeman's badge to U.S. customs officers who waved the pair through.

    "I wouldn't be here, my brothers wouldn't be here if illegal aliens had been rounded up and dragged out,'' said White, a 1992 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

    Few people say what White does in public. But since Ngai wrote her book in 2005, she has heard from some of them. They're not going on talk shows, blogging or writing letters to newspaper editors. But they're out there, even if they don't know it.

    Perhaps if the Senate's legalization bill comes around again, their story could be a rallying cry for those in favor of amnesty.

    "Their voice drops to a whisper,'' Ngai says. "And they say to me, 'You know, my grandparents came illegally.'''

    (Brian Donohue covers immigration issues for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. He can be contacted at bdonohue(at)starledger.com.)

    Comment


    • #3
      TODAY'S LESSON

      By Staff Reports
      7/29/2007
      Last Modified: 7/28/2007 6:06 AM

      Unless they were Chinese, our immigrant ancestors merely hopped a boat or walked into the U.S. until 1924. After 1891, the federal government did begin processing some newcomers at ports of entry such as Ellis Island (although not those migrants who traveled first or second class), checking for head lice, infectious disease, and for some indication that immigrants could support themselves.

      Our ancestors may have been legal immigrants but only insofar as no law at the time prevented their entry into the U.S. If there had been limits on immigration (as there were after 1924), and our ancestors were forced to apply for visas, how many of them would have made it here? Not many, especially if they were Jewish or Catholic Irish or Italians whom American citizens then feared and detested.

      Today's Mexican migrants, genetically, are mostly Native American. The Redmen are retaking the Plains.

      Lamont Lindstrom, Tulsa

      Comment


      • #4
        My grandfather was an illegal immigrant

        Michael Kronley: Fighting oppression . . . can easily lead to being branded a criminal.

        By MICHAEL KRONLEY
        Last Modified: 7/29/2007 1:32 AM

        My Grandpa Saul was an illegal immigrant. As a teenager he faced prison for trying to organize a labor union in Warsaw before World War I and made a hurried departure. He sneaked into Canada, and lived in Toronto. My Grandma Fanny joined him there. She was 16. They married and had two boys, my dad and uncle.

        In the early 1920s Saul had another problem trying to organize workers, packed up his family one night and made it to America. It was a difficult time to be a newcomer in America: the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, the Palmer raids and concern about immigrants plotting against the U.S dominated the headlines.

        As I listen to today's immigration debate I realize that Saul was the type of person some would like to have sent back without fully understanding why he came here. He just wanted an opportunity for a better life in a more open society, for himself and his family.

        In our history we've always welcomed those who had a difficult time in their previous country. Sometimes it was religion, like the first English settlers, sometimes it's economics like today's Latinos. And sometimes, as in my grandpa's situation, it's disagreeing with the repressive practices of another country. Fighting oppression, be it religious, economic or political, can easily lead to being branded a criminal.

        Since Revolutionary War days there's always been a very vocal faction against taking certain immigrants into America: first no one wanted Germans, then Irish, Italians, Jews, Asians and now Latinos. The cry, "Don't let them in," or "Send them back," isn't new. It's just a continuing narrow, bigoted, frightened and uneducated stance, fueled by political opportunity, that goes against the very foundation our nation was built upon.

        We're all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. The ones who come illegally are pretty desperate, and have no choice but to take the risk. Most just want the chance to get ahead, to make a better life for their families and to live in freedom. It's the promise of America and has been since the Pilgrims came.

        Saul, Fanny and the boys all became citizens. My grandpa turned himself around and built a small business as a tailor. More important, this man who had to leave school when he was 7 years old to help support his family, sent his sons to college so they could continue the dream.

        Then World War II came along. My dad served as a captain in the Army, and fought through France and Germany, then returned home to open his dental practice. My uncle was wounded in the Pacific but recovered to work as an engineer for the next 40 years. Their stories are not very different, or any more remarkable, than most families of that era.

        My grandparents always spoke English with an accent, but preferred to speak Yiddish, the language of their birth, to each other. Their sons learned both. By my generation the old language was just that, old and almost forgotten, with just a few words having any meaning. It's a total loss for my children. I'm sure most German, Italian and Asian families could recount similar experiences and years from now Latinos will as well. It's the American way.

        If that illegal immigrant family had been deported to Poland when they were still struggling to make it in America, my grandpa, grandma, dad and uncle would have eventually been sent to the Nazi concentration camps, where they would have been killed. That was the destiny of all of their relatives who weren't lucky enough to leave for a country that understands and promotes freedom.

        But that fate didn't happen to them, because America was big enough, in size and spirit, to accept and welcome their dreams. Accommodating immigrants, understanding their plight and making them American citizens is one of the key reasons our nation grew and prospered in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

        Michael Kronley is a freelance writer, award-winning journalist and former vice president and general manager of KJRH-TV Channel 2.

        Comment


        • #5
          so what? Today, the US of A has certain laws and rules, and none of them are suspended because a bunch of people showed up in America by boat or whatever 100-200-400 years ago...that is the difference. All this hand wringing about our ancestors means nothing compared with the laws of today. Even Poland has visa requriements....why hasn't that country suspended its border regulations, yet it expects America to do so? Sounds like plain old fashioned hypocrisy ... a common denominator when illegal aliens and their supporters whine about our 'unfair' laws.

          Comment


          • #6
            These articles are BS, wrong analogy. Base on these articles, if my great grand father was a slave owner then I have the right to own slaves in this century(regardless of the law).

            Bottom line: A nation without secure borders is not a nation at all. I personally do not blame the people who try to get here illegally to make it, the blame is on the federal government for failing us for last 20 years or so for ignoring the will of the people and not protecting our borders. This is a nation of law and federal government is ignoring to enforce the law, that is why we have this mess on our hand.

            And on this note from your posted article:
            "Today's Mexican migrants, genetically, are mostly Native American. The Redmen are retaking the Plains." ya right, when the Redmen take over the plains these plains will turn to another dump like Mexico.

            Comment


            • #7
              It's not analogies/articles that decide the course of events.

              It's the course of events that decides everything else.

              Comment


              • #8
                <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by RationalE:
                It's not analogies/articles that decide the course of events.

                It's the course of events that decides everything else. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                We the people decide the course of events!

                Comment


                • #9
                  <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"><BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by RationalE:
                  It's not analogies/articles that decide the course of events.

                  It's the course of events that decides everything else </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                  Posted by Club27:
                  We the people decide the course of events! </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                  And who is disputing that?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Brian Donohue (or O'Donnell, White and Ngai for that matter) doesn't just compare the laws of yesteryear with today, rather he is trying to erode the ground under current reasoning against amnesty ("my grandparents came here legally and so should you"), by showing that there were no legal restrictions back then in the first place, ergo the notion is groundless.

                    There is no fallacy with his logic or argument per se.
                    But there is a great fallacy in his lack of understanding how the social, political processess evolve in practice.
                    They are more like natural fenomena with natural causes and effects that can not be influenced by mere/abstract logic or argument.

                    Can you change the path of a river by arguing with it and speaking analogies to it? ["Hey, river, why don't you flow the way you did a hundred years ago?"]; or would you, as an educated man, speak to clouds asking them to pour down more rain?


                    Hence:

                    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">It's not analogies/articles that decide the course of events.

                    It's the course of events that decides everything else. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                    Comment


                    • #11

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">There were some restrictions in place then. All be it next to none compared to now but it was only a function of what was required then. At the time we needed people to populate the country. The same as a lot of water being needed to get a river flowing. Once the water nears the top of the bank then the flow needs to be restricted to keep from flooding. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                        All above is true, but the following statement is hillarious :

                        <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">The one thing that binds us and is causing this problem is usually the love of the other color, green. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                        Must be davdah's interpretation of Ying-Yang sign

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">I was refering everyone's desire to gain money regardless of race. I think we need to add a yong to ying and yang. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                          That's incredibly sharp witted and funny

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            ilw.com
                            July 31, 2007

                            1. COMMENT

                            My Ancestors Were Legal

                            A NJ Star Ledger editorial says, "First of all, for hundreds of
                            years, as immigrants poured in by the hundreds of thousands from
                            the 1600s to the early 1900s, there were simply no federal
                            immigration laws to break ... Once Congress put immigration
                            quotas in place to keep out less desirable Eastern and Southern
                            Europeans in 1921, they began sneaking in by the thousands ...
                            Clearly, if everyone's grandparents said they immigrated legally,
                            someone's grandparents were lying." For the full editorial, see here.
                            http://www.nj.com/printer/printer.ss...0787315220.xml

                            We welcome readers to share their opinion and ideas with us by
                            writing to mailto:editor@ilw.com.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              This davdah is very wise guy, I must admit.
                              Wung Hung Low himself could learn volumes from him.

                              However, in all simplicity (as always):

                              1. The OP's major argument is set against the argument commonly used to oppose amnesty.
                              ("My ancestors came here legally and so should you").
                              Logical premises of OP are solid. ("If there were no restrictions back then in the first place, how can you give credit to your ancestors (for coming here legally) that you take away from todays's illegal newcomers by comparison'").

                              2. Just because OP has logically sound argument against implausible argument used in defence of 'no-amnesty' policy doesn't in fact mean that amnesty can/shoud succeed now (nor the argument of OP will have much effect, since it's not the argument per se cited by OP ("My ancestors came here legally and so should you") that is preventing the amnesty, but rather there are underlying natural forces that guide the course of events, forces that have natural causes and natural effects).

                              Hence: <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by RationalE:
                              It's not analogies/articles that decide the course of events.
                              It's the course of events that decides everything else. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                              and

                              <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by RationalE:
                              There is no fallacy with his logic or argument per se.
                              But there is a great fallacy in his lack of understanding how the social, political processess evolve in practice.
                              They are more like natural fenomena with natural causes and effects that can not be influenced by mere/abstract logic or argument. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                              Is this clearly undeerstood?

                              Somewhere Lao Tze said something to the effect that the greatest wisdom is in non-action (not to confuse with inaction),i.e. in becoming one with the clouds and sliding effortlessly off the surface of sky.

                              Comment

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