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For more than 40 years, from 1924 to 1965, America had an immigration system that was openly based on the proposition that immigrants from a certain part of the world, northern Europe, were inherently more desirable than immigrants from elsewhere, especially Southern and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Even before 1924, the US had already enacted Asian exclusion laws aimed at drastically reducing or stopping immigration from East Asia and South Asia, as well as providing that Asian immigrants could not become naturalized US citizens.
Is Congress now seeking to exploit panic over the possibility of terror attacks and resentment over job competition from highly educated foreign professional workers to take America back to an immigration system which, in actuality, if not in ideology, will bar or severely limit immigration from East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East?
The above question can be legitimately raised after passage of a House bill immediately after the recent Paris terror attacks which Speaker Paul Ryan has stated was intended to create a "pause" in admissions of Syrian refugees (which are already at a virtual standstill anyway). See,
The above question is even more relevant after introduction of two bills in the Republican-controlled Senate. One of these would put a virtual end to the H-1B visa, now used to a large extent by IT and other professional workers from India and China.
The other GOP bill, introduced, one might surmise, as a last hurrah by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), whose reputation had been damaged by allegations related to prostitution, before his political career ended by his losing the governorship race in his state to a Democrat, would put so many draconian restrictions on admitting Syrian refugees that it would a miracle if a single refugee from the twin horrors of Assad's brutal Russian and Iranian backed terror regime and ISIS' descent into medieval barbarism and cruelty (and I have to apologize to the Middle Ages for using this comparison), ever made it into the United States.
Before looking at these two bills, which are so absurdly and redundantly hostile to their intended targets that one might legitimately ask if they had been drafted by Woody Allen, I will start with a Jewish joke dating from the Holocaust period which, among other things, showed the ability of the Jewish people to laugh at and mock their persecutors even at one of the darkest times in their history.
In the joke, a Nazi storm trooper accosts a Jewish man in the street around 1939 or 1940 and says: "Tell me, who started the war?" The man, fearing for his life, answers: "The Jews". Then he adds: "And the bicycle riders."
The Nazi looks puzzled. He asks: "Why the bicycle riders?" The Jewish man answers: "Why the Jews?"
If today's Syrian refugees are comparable to the Jews in this story in terms of their being made scapegoats by our political leaders as i have suggested in three of my recent posts, then H-1B skilled and professional workers are the equivalent of the bicycle riders in terms of the potential threat they present to our society.
(In fact, many New Yorkers, who may have come as close as I have quite often to being hit by speeding bicycles seeming to come out of nowhere, might argue that the bicycle riders are a far greater concern to American society than H-1B professional workers, and are a more appropriate subject for Congressional scrutiny.)
To be continued.
Updated 11-27-2015 at 08:23 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
Nolan Rappaport, in his November 24 Immigration Daily article with the succinct and catchy title: Republicans raise legitimate concerns about Syrian refugees, but the bill they have passed to address those concerns would just impose additional layers of bureaucracy on the background investigation process, should be commended for his painstaking and thorough analysis of the bill recently passed by House Republicans, with the support of 47 Democrats (!), relating to procedures for background investigation of Syrian refugees seeking to come into the United States.
While I do not necessarily agree with all of Nolan's points, I believe that his careful analysis can help answer the most fundamental question which arises about this bill: is it a good faith attempt to deal with genuine security concerns which may be presented by admitting several thousand mainly Muslim Syrian refugees to the United States?
Or is the House bill merely one more demagogic attempt to take advantage of anti-Muslim prejudice for political advantage in the wake of the Paris attacks, along the line of Donald Trump's unconstitutional, quasi-fascist, threat to close down mosques, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's pronouncement that no Muslim refugee children under the age of 5 will be allowed into his state (though he has not yet closed down the George Washington Bridge to stop this serious threat to the safety and security of his constituents - c'mon, Governor, what are you waiting for?), or the despicable, profoundly un-American threat by the Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Virginia (which he has since apologized for) to bring back WW2 style internment of Japanese-Americans, but this time against Muslims?
In one sense, the House bill's Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has already answered this question by saying that the purpose of the bill is to create a "pause" in Syrian refugee immigration (which is almost non-existent in the US at present anyway), rather than a more effective way to do security screening, but having said the above, let's lake a look at Nolan's analysis and see what conclusions we can draw from it.
First, Nolan cites a report by the Reoublican-controlled House Homeland Security Committee claiming that the admistration's proposal to admit more Syrian refugees would have a "limited impact on alleviating the overall crisis but could have serious ramifications for U. S. Homeland Security".
What is the point of mentioning the "limited impact on alleviating the overall crisis"? Certainly, even if the US were to admit a million Syrian refugees (as Germany, with only one quarter of our population, has offered to do), that alone would still not get rid of the twin causes of the Syrian refugee crisis - Assad's monstrous, Russian and Iranian backed dictatorship, and ISIS's decent into inhuman cruelty and barbarism in the name of religion.
If America had admitted a million, or even two million Jewish refugees in the 1930's, instead of almost closing our borders to them completely, that alone would (in all likelihood) still not have prevented the Holocaust - millions more who were unable to escape the Nazis would still have died, but would that have been a good reason not to admit as many refugees as we could?
Moving on to the second part of the above Committee statement, about the allegedly "serious ramifications for U.S. homeland security," I will look a little more closely at what the Committee (as cited by Nolan) thinks these serious ramifications might be. A closer look will show that at least some of the Committees assumptions, such as that one of the Paris attackers may have entered Europe as a Syrian refugee, has not been borne out by any reliable evidence as of the time of this writing.
Nor has the charge that real terrorists might try to enter the US by posing as refugees so far been shown to be anything other than speculation. This is not to say that the possibility doesn't exist or that no reasonable precautions should be taken against it.
But whether the House bill is such a reasonable precaution, as apposed to a politically motivated propaganda exercise aimed at stirring up fear and hatred against Muslims in general, is something that is open to serious question.
Happy Thanksgiving to all Immigration Daily readers.
Updated 11-27-2015 at 07:54 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
In view of the passage of a bill in the House of Representatives (with the support of 47 Democrats) that would effectively bar Syrian refugees from coming to the United States by imposing so many additional levels of bureaucracy that few, if any, would ever be able to get through the entire screening process, and the threats by at least 30 state governors (and not only Republicans) to shred the US constitution and violate federal law by unilaterally barring Syrian refugees from their states, the parallels with America's refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Hitler's concentration camps and gas chambers in the 1930's and early 1940's become even more relevant.
This is despite the protestations of right wing Islamophobes that such a comparison is not only unjustified, but even offensive to the memory of the Holocaust victims. As pointed out in one of my recent posts, the US Holocaust Museum itself, which can be presumed to have some expertise in this area, was not only not offended by this comparison, but instead endorsed it, in a statement which I reproduced in full.
However, it is not necessary just to take the word of the Holocaust Museum that prejudice against Muslim refugees from Syria (and Iraq) today resembles the prejudice against Jewish immigrants which turned hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of desperate people trying to escape Nazi persecution away from our shores There is ample other evidence.
This Part 3 of my comments will discuss a November 21 article by Peter A. Shulman, an associate professor of history at Case Western Reserve University in Fortune (not exactly known as a left wing publication, or one with either a pro-immigrant or pro-Muslim bias) called: How America's Response to Syrian and Jewish Refugees Is Eerily Similar.
Writing about the alleged security threat which many Americans thought that Jewish refugees presented at that time, Professor Shulman states:
"In part, the perceived security threat was social and economic. In July, 1939, a Roper poll...probed 'general opinion on the Jewish question.' Over half the respondents believed Jews were different from other Americans. Ten percent accepted Jews in American life as long as they 'don't try to mingle socially where they are not wanted.'
Nearly a third pointed to Jews' 'different business methods' and asked that' some measures be taken to prevent Jews from getting too much power in the business world.' Another ten per cent supported 'a policy to deport Jews from this country to some new homeland as fast as it can be done without inhumanity.'"
But, Professor Shulman explains, these feelings were not only reflections of general anti-Semitism which had always been part of American life. They were also related to perceived security concerns:
"Behind these numbers lay a toxic fear of Jewish subversion. For decades, Jews had been linked to various strains of un-American threats: socialism, communism and anarchism, of course, but also (paradoxically) a kind of hyper-capitalism. Many believed that the real threat to the United States lay from within. During Franklin Roosevelt's administration, Jews held so many influential positions that the New Deal opponents spoke of the 'Jew Deal'".
Professor Shulman also does not overlook the actual threats of possible Jewish subversion that existed, at least in the minds of some US officials:
"Jewish refugees were also seen as presenting threats to physical security. State Department officials worried tha Nazi saboteurs might disguise themselves among the refugee throngs. Or perhaps Nazis might extort refugees, under threat to family remaining in Germany, to spy for the Reich. Franklin Roosevelt himself exclaimed that 'it is rather a horrible story but in some other countries that refugees out of Germany have gone to, especially Jewish refugees, they have found a number of definitely proven spies.'"
Professor Shulman concludes with the following comparison between Jewish refugees in the 1930's and Syrian Muslim refugees today:
"Unquestionably, the two situations have their differences. Yet perhaps the biggest difference is that most Jews seeking safety from th Nazis could not escape, while today, it is not too late to help those most desperate for security."
Let us hope that the Islamophobic politicians and media figures who are trying to exploit fear, hate and prejudice against the victims who are trying to flee both Russian and Iranian -backed dictatorship and the madness of violent Islamist extremism in Syria today will take these words to heart, instead of trying to exploit the suffering of millions of innocent refugees for political gain, merely because of their religious affiliation.
Roger Algase is a New York lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards. He does not practice in the areas of refugee or asylum law, but he believes that the rights of refugees to fair treatment and basic human rights are connected to the needs of all immigrants in every category for equal justice under law and freedom from prejudice in our immigration system.
Roger's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 11-24-2015 at 02:06 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
Update: November 23, 3:33 pm
On the full anti-democratic implications of Donald Trump's proposals to keep out Syrian refugees and throw out the Constitutional rights of Muslim-Americans, see:
Daily Kos (11/20) Donald Trump Has Gone Full Nazi- And If The GOP Doesn't Repudiate It They Own It
(Link not available.)
Update: November 23, 10:30 am
The bigotry against Latino immigrants which not so long ago threatened to cause a government shutdown over President Obama's attempts to provide relief from deportation has now evidently morphed into bigotry against Muslim immigrants, resulting in a similar threat relating to funds for resettling Syrian refugees (even though the administration intends to limit such admissions to the tiny number of 10,000 over the next two years anyway).
See The Hill: Syria refugee fight emerges as government shutdown threat (11/23)
In view of the serious and destructive consequences that giving into the madness of anti-immigrant Islamophobia could lead to, including not only a government shutdown, but the eventual loss of our democracy through quasi-fascist measures such as Muslim registration, internment and closing of mosques, it is more important than ever to take a serious look at the many similarities between the hatred against Jews which barred so many Holocaust refugees from entering America in the 1930's and the wildly exaggerated reaction against Muslim victims of combined ISIS and Assad terror in Syria which is causing millions of them to flee to the West for safety and a decent life today.
My original post follows:
This is Part 2 of my comments dealing with parallels between the hostility toward Syrian refugees from Assad's Russian-backed terror and ISIS' brutal and inhuman religious fanaticism which Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and many other demagogic politicians are seeking to exploit today, and the anti-Semitic hatred which resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Jewish Holocaust victims being denied refuge in the US, only to die instead in Hitler's death camps.
Despite the statement of the United States Holocaust Museum pointing out the clear parallels between the resistance to allowing Jewish refugees into the US in the 1930's and the hostility to letting in Syrian refugees now, which was reproduced in full in my November 20 post, some people insist on remaining blind to these parallels, on the grounds that in the 1930's and 1940's there was no terror threat to America from Jewish refugees.
It may be true that Jewish terrorist activities, including blowing up part of the King David hotel in Jerusalem which killed almost 100 people in 1946 and massacring 100 Arab civilians in the village of Deir Yassin (in 1948), were carried out in what was previously Palestine and subsequently Israel, not America or Europe - by a group whose leader, Menachem Begin, later received the Nobel Peace Prize.
(Not too many years later, in 1958 or 1959, while I was a Harvard College undergraduate, I personally heard Begin, who at the time was not yet prime minister, but was considered be an extremist fringe member of Israel's parliament with no real political future because of his anti-Arab views, boast about his terrorist past in a speech that he gave at a synagogue in the Boston area.)
But the fact that there was no terrorist threat to America from Palestinian Jewish extremist groups such as the Irgun Zvai Leumi or the Stern Gang did not mean that the American public, and many of our politicians in both parties were not worried about possible terrorism or subversion by Jewish refugees from Hitler.
Even though there was no real Jewish terror threat to this country, the bigots, haters and anti-Semites in America invented one, just as so many presidential candidates, Congressional Representatives and State governors are either inventing or wildly exaggerating the threat from from the millions of Syrian (and Iraqi) Muslims who are fleeing for their lives from terror today, not supporting it.
One of the most comprehensive articles published in the past few days dealing with the imaginary, but still widely believed, security threat allegedly posed by Jewish refugees in the 1930's and 1940's is a two-part November 22 POLITICO article by Josh Zeitz called:
Yes, It's Fair to Compare the Plight of the Syrians to the Plight of the Jews. Here's Why.
"Contrary to what conservatives are saying these days, language commonly invoked in opposition to admitting Syrian refugees bears striking similarity to arguments against providing safe harbor to Jewish refugees in the late 1930's. Then as now, skepticism of religious and ethnic minorities and concerns that refugees might pose a threat to national security deeply influenced the debate over American immigration policy. For conservatives, this likeness is an inconvenient truth."
Zeitz continues by referring to a 1938 Fortune Magazine poll in according to which over two-thirds of the respondents opposed allowing "German, Austrian and other political refugees" to come to the United States.
"Although the 1938 Fortune poll did not specifically mention Jews, most Americans at the time likely understood that roughly 70 per cent of Austrian and German refugees were in fact Jewish. Months later, when Sen.Robert Wagner (D-New York) and Edith Nourse Rogers (R-Massachusetts) introduced legislation that would lift immigration caps to admit 10,000 refugee children to the United States, the Nation acknowledged a "sotto voce" understanding that "this is a Jewish bill."
"In a telling augury of Gov. Chris Christie's pitiless remark that even 5-year old Syrian orphans should be barred from entering American shores, a Gallup poll in January 1940 found that 66 per cent of respondents opposed the Wagner-Rogers bill. In May, 1940, when the Cincinnati Post polled 1000 local women - most of them housewives and mothers - a whopping 77 per cent rejected the plan to settle refugee children in the United States."
Zeitz also refutes today's right-wing argument that popular anti-Semitism in the 1930's and 1940's was not primarily based on security concerns, and therefore differed from today's opposition to admitting Syrian refugees to the US:
"In February 1942, just two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a national poll asked Americans to identify the national, ethnic or religious groups that are a 'menace [threat] to this country'. Unsurprisingly, 24 per cent identified Japanese-Americans and 18 per cent volunteered German-Americans. Jews ranked third, at 15 percent. Three years later, in 1945, the same question yielded more arresting results: 24 per cent identified Jews as the most menacing ethnic group in America, ahead of the Japanese (9 per cent) and Germans (6 per cent)."
Zeitz also quotes Gerald L.K. Smith, one of the most vicious (and popular) of all American anti-Semites in the 1940's as warning of:
"200,000 Communist Jews at the Mexican border waiting to get into this country. If they are admitted, they will rape every woman and child that is left unprotected."
Does this remind anyone of any of today's presidential candidates?
While Gerald L. K. Smith was admittedly never considered mainstream, Zeitz also writes that there was a much more common feeling among Americans in the 1930's and 1940's that the Jews has pushed the US into the European war and that they had an undue amount of influence over America's motion pictures, press, radio and government.
Jews were also considered to be security risks as both Communists and potential Nazi saboteurs (at the same time)!
"In short, most of the elements that conservatives...cite as differentiating factors between now and then - fear of refugee violence, fear of their inability or desire to assimilate, concern over their economic dependence, suspicion of their ideological alienation and radicalism - were in fact central to the debate over admitting Jewish refugees in the 1930's."
To be continued in Part 3.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards. Roger believes that immigration law is not merely involved with technical rules, important as these are, but also is a matter of ensuring fundamental fairness, equal protection under the law and basic human rights for all immigrants, whatever their category or status.
Roger's email address is email@example.com
Updated 11-24-2015 at 02:27 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
Update: November 20, 10:09 pm: Huffington Post reported on November 20, that on November 18, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued the following statement, which I reproduce here in its entirety:
"Acutely unaware of the consequences to Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum looks with concern upon the current refugee crisis. While recognizing that security concerns must be fully addressed, we should not turn our backs on the thousands of legitimate refugees.
The Museum calls upon public figures and citizens to avoid condemning today's refugees as a group. It is important to remember that many are fleeing because they have been targeted by the Assad regime and ISIS for persecution and in some cases elimination on the basis of their identity."
For a full report, see:
My original post appears below:
The rhetoric over the issue of admitting Syrian refugees into the US in the wake of the Paris attacks (which none of them had anything to do with based on available evidence to date) has now heated up to a point where a certain distinguished retired physician is now comparing them to rabid dogs, a statement that could raise some questions about his own stability. See POLITICO: Ben Carson compares Syrian refugees to dogs, November 19.
Not to be outdone, an even more well known businessman who is also running for president is now advocating closing some or all mosques in the US (but, to be sure, not destroying them - admittedly a very important distinction between his views and what happened to the synagogues in Germany on Kristallnacht in 1938). See POLITICO: Trump: 'Absolutely no choice' but to close mosques (November 18)
In addition, more than half the governors in the United States have announced that they intend to shred the Constitutional provisions for federal supremacy in immigration matters and freedom of religion, and to violate US refugee law by barring Muslim refugees from their states, as discussed in more detail my November 17 Immigration Daily post.
Not to be outdone, the House of Representatives has just passed a bill that would effectively shut down the entire Syrian refugee program in the name of security.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Roanoke Virginia, a Democrat, is calling for Muslim refugees in the US to be interned, just as Japanese-Americans were during WW2 in one of the most shameful of all periods in the entire history of the United States.
As a result of all this, some critics and human rights advocates are now comparing the current hysteria over Syrian Muslim refugees with the refusal of the Roosevelt administration to admit more than a handful of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany during the 1930's leading up to WW2.
But this comparison itself is causing outrage among many of the opponents of letting Syrian refugees into the United States. One of the milder reactions I have seen was from an acquaintance who said that even considering such a comparison was offensive.
The reason why some people angrily reject the idea of comparing Syrian refugees today with Jewish refugees 75 or 80 years ago is security: Syrians (at least those who, according to Rupert Murdoch, are not "proven Christians") are pilloried as potential terror threats today, while, the argument goes, Jewish refugees were a danger to nobody in the 1930's.
But that is not how Jewish refugees were perceived by the American public at the time. Just as the actual danger from Syrian refugees who are fleeing from an Islamist terror regime and an equally brutal Russian-backed dictatorship is wildly exaggerated today, Jewish refugees in the 1930's were considered by much of the American public to be everything from anarchists and Bolsheviks to potential Nazi spies in the 1930's.
Beenish Ahmed (OK, not exactly a Jewish name, but he extensively quotes from a Jewish historian - see below) in a November 19 article on ThinkProgress America Turned Away Jewish Refugees Because Some Were Feared To Be Nazi Agents, cites American University history professor Max Paul Freedman as saying that security concerns - not unlike those being raised with regard to Syrian refugees now, were among the chief reasons for denying desperate Jewish refugees safe haven in the US. See
See also: Ishan Tharoor: Washington Post, November 19 Yes, the comparison between Jewish and Syrian refugees matters (Link to be provided.)
To be continued in Part 2.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 30 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional workers obtain work visas and green cards.
Roger regards immigration law not just as a series of technical rules, important as they are, but also as a matter of equal justice, fundamental fairness and basic human rights. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 11-20-2015 at 10:09 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs