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     Immigrants Hall of Fame


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  Scrolls of Honor
 
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   The defiant rattlesnake was of one the most popular emblems throughout the colonies during the Revolutionary War.  When the first fleet commissioned by Congress put to sea in January 1776, two of its flags, the commodore's pennant and the jack, carried snake emblems. The commander of that first American Navy was Esek Hopkins, whose fleet seized two British forts on New Providence Island in the Bahamas. On the return trip, four vessels, including a British armed schooner were captured. Once, in port, however, many of the sailors left to earn more pay elsewhere or were dismissed due to illness.  For not being able to put out to sea again, Commodore Hopkins was censured by the new Congress, then suspended, and finally dismissed.

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Hollywood Moguls

    The "founding fathers" of Hollywood – the men who first established the major studios – were Eastern European Jewish immigrants who all were born within a 500 mile radius of each other in Yiddish-speaking Russia and what is now Poland.

    The movie producers were Harry and Jack Warner of Warner Brothers; Louis B. Mayer of MGM; Adolph Zucker of Paramount, Samuel Goldwyn of MGM; Carl Laemmle of Paramount; Harry Cohn of Columbia; Jesse Lasky of the Jesse Lasky Company, Irving Thalberg, and Louis Zelnick.

    They had moved to Southern California from New York City to get away from the Producer’s Trust organized by Thomas Edison to keep outsiders from making headway in the movie industry. The Jewish immigrants prospered in Hollywood by creating their own studio system. They also were single-handedly responsible for making the Hollywood movie the most popular American product exported overseas.

    The studio chiefs --drawing from their own background of persecution, ghettos, and pogroms -- in essence created the image of America which the country adopted as its own, championing the common man, as well as family values, an open society, and patriotism. It has been said of them that Hollywood was a dream dreamt by Jews fleeing a nightmare.

    Most of the great movies made during the "Golden Age" of Hollywood were produced by these men.

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John Lennon

    John Lennon moved to the United States in 1971, soon after the Beatles rock group disbanded. Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono arrived in New York City to seek custody of Mrs. Lennonís daughter by a former marriage to an American citizen. When Lennon tried to adjust his status to legal permanent resident, his application was denied by the INS and Lennon was ordered deported. The final appeal went to U.S. District Court before Judge Irving R. Kaufman.

    Deportation orders are one of the few INS decisions which can be appealed outside the INS and the Department of Justice. Otherwise, the INS has "plenary" powers, that is to say, the INS has full, complete, and absolute power to decide matters. If not for the level-headed decision rendered by Judge Kaufman, John Lennon would have become a victim of what Judge Kaufman called the "labyrinthine provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act."

    What makes the John Lennon case so interesting is that the INS -- in the vain, dogged, narrow-minded pursuit of a legality – lost all sense of proportion and balance and actually tried kick out of this country one of the world’s greatest songwriters, who brought pleasure to millions of people around the world, not least of which his adoring American fans. This was one of the most inane chapters in American immigration history.

    The INS wanted to deport Lennon because in 1968 the British-born musician had been convicted of possessing marijuana resin (hashish). He thus became what the INS calls an excludable alien owing to this prior criminal offense.

    On Oct. 8, 1968, detectives from Scotland Yards drug squad conducted a warrantless search of Lennon’s London apartment. The policemen found one half ounce of hashish inside a binocular case. Lennon pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis resin and was fined.

    Once in the United States, Lennon was denied adjustment of status because of a provision in the Immigration and Naturalization Act which excludes from the U.S. people who have committed certain crimes, the illicit possession of marijuana being one of them. (This section of the INA has since been revised and made even more stringent than it was in 1975.)

    At his deportation hearing, letters from many eminent writers, artists, and entertainers, as well as from New York City Mayor John Lindsay, were submitted to show that Lennon would make an unique and valuable contribution to this country’s cultural heritage. The Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeal (both of which operate under the Department of Justice, an executive agency under the President of the U.S.) nonetheless ruled that Lennon be deported. Lennon claimed that the INS had singled him out because the agency feared he would lead potentially embarrassing demonstrations for the peace movement against the then-existing administration.

    On further appeal, before U.S. District Court, Judge Kaufman in essence used a legal technicality to counter the legal technicality used by the INS. The Judge held that under English drug possession laws "guilty knowledge" is not an element of the offense. In other words, in England, a person may be convicted of drug possession whether or not he was aware that an illegal drug was in his house. In American law, "guilty knowledge" is an element of a drug possession offense. Judge Kaufman ruled that since it was never proven that Lennon knew about the hashish in his London apartment, his conviction did not rise to the level of "illicit possession" as is required under American law. The judge therefore vacated the deportation order.

    "Given, in sum, the minimal gain in effective enforcement, we cannot imagine that Congress would impose the harsh consequences of an excludable alien classification,’" the judge wrote, "upon a person convicted under a foreign law that made guilty knowledge irrelevant. We hold it did not."

    In his ruling, Judge Kaufman also made several insightful comments about U.S. immigration in general:   

    "We have come along way from the days when fear and prejudice toward alien races were the guiding forces behind our immigration laws. The Chinese exclusion acts of the 1880s and the ‘barred zones’ created by the 1917 Immigration Act have, thankfully, been removed from the statute books and relegated to the historical treatises. Nevertheless, the power of Congress to exclude or deport natives of other countries remains virtually unfettered. In the vast majority of deportation cases, the fate of the alien must therefore hinge upon narrow issues of statutory construction. …

    "Deportation is not, of course, a penal sanction. But in severity it surpasses all but the most Draconian criminal penalties. We therefore cannot deem wholly irrelevant the long unbroken tradition of the criminal law that harsh sanctions should not be imposed where moral culpability is lacking. …

    "The courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds. …

    "Before closing with the traditional words of disposition, we feel it appropriate to express our faith that the result we have reached in this case not only is consistent with the language and purpose of the narrow statutory provision we construe, but also furthers the intent of the immigration laws in a far broader sense. The excludable aliens statute is but an exception, albeit necessary, to the traditional tolerance of a nation founded and built by immigrants. If, in our two hundred years of independence, we have in some measure realized our ideals, it is in large part because we have always found a place for those committed to the spirit of liberty and willing to help implement it. Lennon’s four-year battle to remain in our country is testimony to his faith in this American dream."

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Emma Lazarus

    She wrote the poem, "The New Colossus," inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty.

    Lazarus was born in 1849 to Moses and Esther Lazarus in New York City, a prominent fourth-generation Jewish family. She was well educated and by age 25 was a published poet and author. She became one of the most outspoken Americans on Jewish issues. In the 1880s, New York City had become the destination point for thousands of Jews escaping the Pogroms of Russia. Lazarus established classes for Jewish immigrants to learn English.  She also helped them find them housing. She used her celebrity to bring attention to the idea of the resettlement of Jews in Palestine. She founded an organization called Colonization of East European Jews.

    In 1883, Lazarus published her poem, "The New Colossus" for an auction at the Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty. The poem fell into obscurity while the national waited for Lady Liberty to be delivered from France in 1886.

    Lazarus would not live to understand the full impact of what she had written. She died in 1884 after visiting France. It was not until 1901 that her poem was added to a bronze plaque at the base of the statute.

THE NEW COLOSSUS

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

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Alien Exclusions

    In its infancy, the Republic welcomed people of all stripes and from whatever nation or planet they came from. This state of laissez faire lasted for about 10 years.

    The first U.S.immigration laws were enacted in 1798. One of the laws required the commander of a vessel to make a written report to the customs officer in charge of a port of entry, giving names of all arriving aliens, and other prescribed data pertaining to them.

    This record keeping, however, had far more xenophobic (or to be more exact, political) underpinnings. In the Alien Act of 1798, also known as the Alien & Sedition Laws, the President was authorized to expel any alien he deemed dangerous. At that time, war threatened between France and the United States. (A great irony indeed. Without the French naval blockade against England scarcely ten years before, the Colonies would have lost the Revolutionary War.)  The Alien & Sedition Laws were passed ostensibly as a security measures against French agents and sympathizers in the United States. Actually, the laws were designed by the party controlling Congress, the Federalists, to suppress criticism of the government by opposition party, the Democrats.

    The acts were aimed particularly at a group of foreign-born (mainly French) editors and pamphleteers, sympathetic to the Democrats, who were heaping abuse on the administration of President John Adams, a Federalist. Through the immigration acts, the Federalists hoped to weaken the political strength of the opposition Democrats, led by Thomas Jefferson (who was Vice President).


     The Alien & Sedition Laws had these components:
      The Naturalization Act extended the residency requirement for U.S. citizenship from 5  years (which is what it is today) to 14 years.
     The Alien Act empowered the President to expel any alien whom he believed was dangerous to the nation's security.
     The Alien Enemies Act authorized the President to order from the country all aliens of a nation warring against the United States.
     The Sedition Act made it a crime punishable by fine or prison to  libel the President, Congress, or the government.

    Although the Alien Act was never applied the threat of enforcement caused many French residents to leave the U.S. A number of persons were prosecuted under the Sedition Act, ten individuals being convicted in courts. The Naturalization Act worked hardship on aliens of all nationalities.

    These immigration acts were very unpopular with the public. The Democrats assailed the acts as despotic and unconstitutional. The legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia (Jefferson's home state) passed resolutions denouncing the acts and calling upon other states to nullify them.  Enough indignation was stirred by these acts that Adams did not win his re-election bid. Jefferson and his party took over.

    The Alien Act expired in 1800 and was not renewed.  In 1801 the Sedition Act also expired. All those convicted under this act were pardoned by President Jefferson, who had considered it unconstitutional. The Naturalization Act was repealed in 1802. Only the Alien Enemies Act remained on the statute book.  It still exists today and permits the removal of alien enemies during hostilities.

    The crowning irony of the Alien & Sedition Acts was that Jefferson, who had good relations with the French in this country and with the French government, succeeded in making the Louisiana Purchase from France.   Jefferson may have not been elected if the unpopular acts had not so antagonized voters against the Federalists.

    Thereafter, the United States government welcomed immigrants, and Congress did not pass any laws restricting immigration until 1882 with the first general federal immigration law. This law included a head tax of 50 cents on immigrants. It excluded from the United States idiots, lunatics, convicts, and persons likely to become public charges.

    Later amendments expanded the classes of excludable people.  Many of these categories remain on the books, but not all are enforced. At one time or other, excludable aliens have included persons with contagious diseases, people with criminal records involving moral turpitude, persons with tuberculosis, persons with physical or mental defects, persons who are illiterate, polygamists, professional beggars, epileptics, insane persons, feeble minded children unaccompanied by parents, anarchists, and Communists.

    In 1882 Congress passed the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act, which provided for the exclusion of persons from China.

    Chinese laborers entered the United States in great numbers after 1848, especially because of the need for workers to build the transcontinental railroad. About 90 percent of the railway laborers at that time were Chinese.  After the railroad was completed, jobs were scarce, and the Workingman's Party pressed Congress for a law to exclude Chinese.

    In 1880, the United States reached an agreement with the Chinese government to regulate the number of Chinese migrating to the U.S.  passed. It was followed Congressional  laws in 1882 and 1902 to bar the Chinese from entering the U.S.  In 1917, Congress established an Asiatic barred zone under which no Orientals of any kind could enter the United States except Japanese.

    The Chinese exclusion laws remained in effect until 1943. By then, China was largely occupied by Japan, our common enemy in World War II.  During the war, the United States placed in internment camps its own citizens who were of Japanese origin. After the war, Japan became our greatest friend in Asia and Communist China became our enemy. And so it goes ...

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A Passion for Baseball

     The Dominican Republic contributes more baseball players to the U.S. Major Leagues than any other country. In 1998 this island nation had 62 players on the opening day rosters – or 7.4 percent of major league players.

    The island’s passion for baseball can be traced back to the arrival in 1916 of U.S. Marines who occupied the island for eight years and played plenty of baseball with the natives. Youngsters in this nation of about 8 million see baseball as a way to better themselves and work their way out of poverty. About 30 percent of the island is unemployed. Workers in sugar and oil refineries make only about $200 a month.

    In 1956 Ozzie Virgil became the first Dominican to play in the U.S. Major Leagues as a third baseman for the New York Giants. Other Dominicans who have played baseball in the United States include Juan Marichal (Hall of Fame pitcher for the San Francisco Giants); Rico Carty (who won the National League batting crown in 1970); Alfredo Griffin (who shared the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1979); Joaquin Andujar (a 20-game winner in 1984-85); Tony Fernandez (a shortstop who earned four Gold Gloves 1986-1989); and George Bell (the only Dominican to win the Most Valuable Player award).

    The latest Dominican standout is home run slugger Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs. As a boy, Sosa shined shoes and sold oranges in the town plaza of San Pedro de Macoris. In 1998 season Sosa earned $8 million. And whenever he hits a home run, he touches two fingers to his mouth and blows a kiss to his mother, who watches every game on TV in the Dominican Republic.

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Dying Wish

    On August 1998, Gimel Aguinaga was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in Houston, Texas, fulfilling the 16-year-old Nicaraguan’s dying wish.

    Aguinaga had been diagnosed as suffering from Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. He was told he didn’t have long to live. The young man’s only wish was that he and his mother and sister would become U.S. citizens before he died.

    When his mother filed for naturalization, she discovered that the INS was taking two years or more to process citizenship cases –- and no exceptions were being made for expedites. (An estimated two million people are currently waiting to be naturalized.)

    The mother, Blanca Aurora Sunsin, enlisted the help of Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, who called the INS to point out the humanitarian aspects of the situation. Presto! Soon after that, the woman, her son and daughter, were sworn in as U.S. citizens. "We are touched that a person of such tender age realizes the importance and the value of United States citizenship," said INS District Director Richard Cravener.

    Moral of the story? The INS does have a heart – if a U.S. senator primes the pump.

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