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Nativism Deja Vu: First Jews and Italians; Now Muslims and Mexicans. Roger Algase

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The late Yogi Berra's phrase "deja vu all over again" applies to many areas of life, and none more so than America's history of scapegoating and excluding unpopular ethnic or religious immigrant groups. The hostile attitudes of Donald Trump and other right-wing American politicians and pundits toward Mexican, Muslim and Central American immigrants today are not different in any material way from those which greeted Jewish, Italian, Asian and other targeted immigrants a century ago.

Today, Donald Trump is calling Mexican immigrants "criminals" and "rapists" In 1908, another New Yorker, Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham, had the following to say about Jewish immigrants in an article which, according to journalists writing about that period, was widely read at the time.

"The crimes committed by the Russian Hebrews are generally those against property. They are burglars, firebugs, pickpockets and highway robbers...Among the most expert of all street thieves are Hebrew boys under sixteen, who are being brought up to lives of crime."

Commissioner Bingham then went on to share some of his thoughts about Italian immigrants, whom he saw as even more dangerous to society than the Jewish ones:

"Although, while the Italians are outnumbered in New York by the Hebrews by two to one, the crime percentage of the former is but 20 to the latter's 50, the Italian malefactor is by far the greater menace to law and order...and while the great bulk of these people are among our best citizens, there are fastened upon them a riff-raff of desperate scoundrels,, ex-convicts and jailbirds of the Mafia, such has never before afflicted a civilized country in time of peace."

Binghsm went on to say:

"in New York, presumably the very centre of Western civilization, crimes of blackmailing, blowing up shops and houses and kidnapping of their fellow countrymen, have become prevalent among Italian residents of this city to an extent that cannot much longer be tolerated."

It is interesting to note that Bingham was careful to point out that the "great bulk" of Italian immigrants were "among our best citizens", just as Trump, more than 100 years later was "generous" enough to "presume" that some Mexican immigrants are "good people".

(This would include, one would imagine, the nearly 1,000 Mexican citizens whom Trump himself has sponsored for legal work visas at, one can also safely assume, minimum wages or not much above. Hypocrisy is alive and well in Trump's empire, it would appear).

It is also noteworthy that just as Trump does not talk about any Muslims as being "good people" but wants to ban all of the more than a billion adherents of this religion from our shores until he gives further notice, Bingham did not mention any Jews at all as being "good citizens". See:

https://archive.org/stream/jstor-251...06203_djvu.txt

(I assume that the four letters "djvu" near the end the above link have no connection with Yogi Berra!)

Prejudice against Jewish immigrants in 19th and early 20th century America was by no means limited to calling them criminals. Anti-Semitic ingenuity and creativity was not so constricted.

Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century were also labeled as dangerous "anarchists" and "bolsheviks", that period's equivalents of the modern "terrorist". See:

http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/west-of...emium-1.672265

Hatred against Jewish immigrants was based as well on the notion, going back to the Middle Ages if not even earlier, that Judaism was an "evil" religion, just as Islam is attacked as a "violent ideology" by the Islamophobes today.

Compare the following comment about the Jewish Talmud in a November 18, 1837 article in James Gordon Bennet's New York Herald newspaper with what the Know-Nothings of the 21st Century are now saying about the Qur'an and its adherents in an attempt to label all of the world's Muslims as Jihadists and terrorists:

"Here are pictured forth, from their own own sacred writings, the Talmud...the real opinion of the Jews on the original and Sacred Founder of Christianity...the Jews may conceal these terrible opinions and doctrines - ...in order the better to crush all religion under the secret poison of infidelity and atheism, but their Talmuds and Targums are evidence against them.

See Jonathan D. Sarna:-Commentary: Anti-Semitism and American History

(Vol.71:3, March 1981 - Link not available, please use Google.)

Without question, when it comes to today's immigration opponents' attempts to smear all Latino immigrants as criminals and all Muslim immigrants as potential terrorists, Yogi Berra's iconic expression could not be more appropriate.
_______________________________
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants, from many different parts of the world and ethnic/religious backgrounds, obtain work visas and green cards.

Roger believes that while there may be legal distinctions between immigrants and US citizens with respect to the privileges to which they are entitled, all people have the same basic human rights to equal justice and fundamental fairness under the law, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

Roger's email address is algaselex@gmail.com

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Updated 01-07-2016 at 08:59 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. Unregistered222's Avatar
    Excellent article Roger!

    Congratulations to people of Israel for standing strong and now allowing jihadi mozlem terrorists to slip in the great Israel and kill people under the guise of "Syrian refugees". Israeli government is firmly with you and will not allow ISIS terrorists come to your country and kill you. 0 refugees from Syria is very wise policy of Israeli government.
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