Friday, October 7, 2016

My mother and Trump’s border: America has been through this “extreme vetting” before

My mother's 1953 experience with immigration detainment shows how dangerous McCarthy-like thinking can be

By Ariel Dorfman,
September 25, 2016

Donald Trump, reacting to the recent terror attacks, called on the government and law enforcement to fight, McCarthy-like, the “cancer from within.” He then went on to exclaim: “How they came into the country in the first place is beyond me.” Obviously, he believes that these and thousands of other possible (and according to him, inevitable) assailants did not undergo the “extreme vetting” that he proposed as indispensable to keep Muslim terrorists and those advocating Sharia law from entering the United States. Whether this prospective weeding out of aliens antagonistic to American values at the border would bolster our security is doubtful.

A long time ago my mother, Fanny Zelicovich Dorfman, who, alas, has not been alive for some 20 years, fell afoul of a system of interrogation similar to the one the Republican candidate wishes to put into place. Her story might provide a sober perspective on the pitfalls and traps that such examinations entail.

Though Fanny would later recount her detention by immigration officials lightheartedly, as was her wont when tragedies descended upon the family (and they were many), there was nothing amusing about the episode when it occurred.

My sister and I found out about my mother’s mishap when, on the last day of our stay at Camp Tevya in Massachusetts — it must have been some time in late July or maybe August 1953 — my parents did not turn up to retrieve us. Instead, my father had asked some nearby friends in Boston to take care of us while he sorted out the mess my mother found herself in.[...]

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