A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
The Racist-In-Chief continues to spout his pitiless rhetoric on immigration – aka don’t want no more brown-skinned people in my wannabe chaste white kingdom – even appropriating the memory of firebrand and Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan for his own uses by claiming his “America First” drivel echoes “the spirit” of Jordan on immigration. (Hint: It doesn’t.) Amidst such racist hogwash – see right-wing social media like #Chain Migration and #BuildTheWall – created by journalist, genealogy buff and descendant of Jewish immigrants Jennifer Mendelsohn. Tired of racist pundits and politicians slamming immigrants, and as a “hyphenated American” aware that “unless you came on the Mayflower, you’re Native American, or your ancestors came in slave ships, you are an immigrant,” she began researching the family trees of those public figures.
The result: “It was hilarious how easy it was to find hypocrisy. You barely have to scratch the surface.” Searching newspaper archives, census records, ancestry.com listings and Ellis Island ship manifestos, Mendelsohn documented the hardscrabble immigrant histories of those who are “just assimilated immigrants looking down on the next wave and not liking what they see.” She then confronted them in a series of Twitter burns exposing their unholy hypocrisy and a vital lesson: “Talk ignorant smack about immigrants at your own risk.”
In response to White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino’s call to end “chain migration,” the longstanding practice of family reunification: “So Dan, let’s say Victor Scavino arrives from Canelli, Italy in 1904, then brother Hector in 1905, brother Gildo in 1912, sister Esther in 1913, & sister Clotilde and their father Giuseppe in 1916, and they live together in NY. Do you think that would count as chain migration?” When Iowa’s wingnut Rep. Steve King – “We can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies” – badmouthed immigrants one too many times, Mendelsohn uncovered the arrival in this country of King’s ancestors in 1894. They were his grandmother Freda, age 4, with her two-year-old brother and infant sister – babies, all.
After dead-eyed Nazi ghoul, white supremacist and Senior Advisor Stephen Miller feverishly defended a proposal to cut legal immigration in half and limit it to affluent, skilled, English-speaking people, she recounted Miller’s past: His maternal great-grandparents Wolf and Bessie Glotzer fled Belarus as “dirt poor immigrants,” arriving at Ellis island in 1903. They had $8 in their pockets, and Bessie spoke no English. They were eventually joined by several family members, aka chain migration. Miller’s repulsive bosses have similar stories, uncovered by others. One of their rabid supporters, Fox News loudmouth and strident critic of “illegals” Tomi Lahren, Mendelsohn found, has an even better one: Her immigrant great-great-grandfather Constantin Dietrich was indicted and prosecuted for forging and altering his naturalization papers. In 1917, he was acquitted by an evidently less than pitiless jury, and was allowed to stay. Tomi Lahren and your ilk, take note, warns Mendelsohn: “People in genealogical glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”