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Attacks On Italian Immigrants Yesterday, Muslim Immigrants Today. By Roger Algase

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Amid all the furor over Donald Trump's proposal to bar all Muslim immigrants from the US, it is easy to forget that almost all of us who happen to be US citizens through the accident of birth, unless we happen to be descended entirely from either native Americans or from English-speaking white Protestant Northern European ancestors, are Americans only because we have ancestors who were members of immigrant groups which were hated, feared and discriminated against as much as, if not even more than, Muslim immigrants are being targeted today.

A good reminder of this is a 2012 article by Italian-American writer Ed Falco, author of the novel The Family Corleone, which become the basis for Mario Puzo's The Godfather movie, called When Italian immigrants were 'the other'. See

Falco writes:

"In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where there is opposition to the building of a mosque, protesters are reported to have gathered at the construction site, shouting. 'Islam is not a religion!'. When I read this in my local newspaper, I thought about how the people of Murfreesboro's Islamic community must have felt at the sight of their neighbors rallying against them and their religion."

Falco then goes on to describe what he calls "the largest mass lynching in U.S. history" which took place in New Orleans in 1891 - against Italian-Americans

"After nine Italians were tried and found not guilty of murdering New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessey, a mob dragged them from the jail, along with two other Italians being held on unrelated charges, and lynched them all. The lynchings were followed by mass arrests of Italian immigrants throughout New Orleans, and waves of attacks against Italians nationwide."

Falco continues:

"What was the reaction of our country's leaders to the lynchings? Teddy Roosevelt, not yet president, famously said that they were 'a rather good thing'. The response in The New York Times was worse: A March 16, 1891 editorial referred to the victims of the lynchings as '...sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins.' An editorial the next day argued that: 'Lynch law was the only course open to the people of New Orleans.'

John Parker, who organized the lynch mob, later went on to be
governor of Louisiana."

After also describing a riot outside a Catholic church in New York City on December 24, 1806 by protesters against Christmas Eve ceremonies going on inside, which lead to dozens of injuries and the death of a policeman, Falco concludes:

"The decades go by, they turn into centuries, and we forget. We've forgotten the depth of prejudice and outright hatred faced by Italian immigrants in America. We've forgotten the degree to which we once feared and distrusted Catholics. If we remembered, I wonder how much it might change the way we think about today's immigrant populations, or our attitudes toward Muslims?"

These words are worth taking to heart as we approach Christmas, a holiday based on love and resoect for all human beings of every race, religion and national origin.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from many different parts of the world, and many religious backgrounds, obtain work visas and green cards. Roger's email address is

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Updated 12-15-2015 at 10:53 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. Unregistered222's Avatar
    Well, Roger, I will give you several points:

    - did Italian immigrants shoot/blown up Boston marathons?
    - did Italian immigrants shoot up national guard recruitment offices and kill unarmed soldiers, while screaming Allahu Akbar?
    - did Italian immigrants commit something like San Bernardino shooting killing unarmed innocent people?

    and finally last but not least

    - how much US taxpayers money has been used to bring Italian immigrants and keep them on welfare for decades, like it is now done with garden variety abdulazzizes

    What says you Roger?
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Thank you once again, Unregistered 222, for your many posts that continually prove my point to the effect that 19th century hatred and intolerance toward immigrants are living on in 21st century America, with only the targets changed.

    And yes, there is always some heinous thing that one or two, or a few, new immigrants (or hyphenated US citizens) have done which (allegedly) none of the older immigrants before them ever did, and which the haters and demagogues can then use to whip up prejudice against the entire religious or racial group concerned, including millions of innocent people who had nothing to do with whatever incident was involved.

    Keep 'em coming (your comments, that is). If I were an ancient Greek dramatist, I would be welcoming you on stage as my Greek chorus.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 12-15-2015 at 11:13 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  3. Unregistered222's Avatar
    LOL again Roger. Do you even realize how pathetic you are? Immigration lawyer peddling immigration on the immigration lawyers website, which is not visited by anyone other than a bunch of immigration lawyers. I am probably the only exception who comes here to get a good therapeutic laugh at your expense )))) Keep posting Roger, keep posting
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    So you have found out that I am an immigration lawyer. What great detective work on your part! Who knew?

    I also happen to be the grandchild of immigrants. All of my grandparents were Jewish immigrants who came here to escape late 19th Century discrimination and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and to find a better life in America

    The hostility they were greeted with in this country was expressed with different words from the ones you use in your comments about Muslim immigrants as far as the specifics are concerned, but the hatred was the same. You are part of a long tradition in America, and it is not one that you should be proud of.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 12-15-2015 at 01:37 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  5. jsroselle's Avatar
    Wait, you mean this is a forum for intelligent discourse on immigration law and public policy? No wonder the anonymous posters feel so insecure! But I digress ....

    Yes, sadly, even with changes in immigration law and policy the descendants of immigrants who are members of the target religious, ethnic, and racial minorities still experience the lingering effects generations later. I am the great-grandchild of Sicilian immigrants and, even though I am in the third generation born in the U.S., I was raised to ignore my Italian heritage as much as possible and I was told the stories about the treatment of Italian immigrants, and their children, during the early part of the 20th century.

    Unfortunately, who knows how long the effects will last for the immigrants and descendants of those immigrants from countries where Islam is the dominant religion? And even then, when will Americans get over their fear of everything that lies outside their comfort and familiarity zone and learn about Islam? Since the myths about Catholics continue to persist I hold no hope that things will change for Muslims in this country, or any other Western country any time soon.

    Oh, and yes, I am an immigration attorney - that means I have an understanding of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
  6. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Thank you, jsroselle, for your very perceptive and compassionate comments. The story of Syrian refugees and other Muslims immigrants today is our immigrant story too - the story of our Italian, Jewish, Irish and Asian ancestors who were also the targets of hatred and unreasoning discrimination, whether as alleged Mafia members, anarchists, Bolsheviks, Soviet spies or disease carriers - you name it - the repertoire of anti-immigrant hate is large, and always has been.

    It is almost amusing to see how quickly the opponents of Syrian refugees change their tune when faced with the obvious fact that the refugees are fleeing from the terrorists, not to support them. Then the immigrant-haters switch seamlessly over to the mantra that the Syrian refugees will all become welfare cases.

    Of course they will. We all know that Syrians have no skills or work ethic to contribute to our economy - just as Steve Jobs demonstrated.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 12-15-2015 at 09:18 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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