Monday, June 26, 2017

Your immigrant ancestors came here legally? Are you sure?

A good article, but the quote from historian Mae Ngai must have been cut short. Ngai, the author of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, the definitive history of U.S. immigration policy between 1924 and 1965, clearly didn’t mean that just any able-bodied person with a little money and some mental ability could enter the country before 1924: most Asians were excluded.—TPOI
Ellis Island, early 1900s. Photo: National Park Service
By Michael Matza, The Inquirer
June 25, 2017
Passions rise, tempers flare, and sooner or later someone says: Why don’t they just come here legally, the way my grandparents did?

In any debate about illegal immigration, that argument, with its implied moral distinction between prior generations of purportedly law-abiding immigrants, and anyone here illegally now, invariably comes up.

But although many people think their ancestors came legally, says immigration historian Mae Ngai, most families can’t know that with certainty. And the criteria for admission to the United States have changed so much since the late 19th and early 20th centuries that most comparisons of then to now are like apples to oranges.[…]

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