November 26, 2014


An Immigrant Thanksgiving (IRA STOLL, November 24, 2014, NY Sun)

An elderly relative of mine recently let me in on what she described as a family secret: her housepainter father, she said, could never get a steady indoor job here in America because he didn't have proper working papers.

I knew about my grandfather on one side of the family who had arrived at Ellis Island in the 1920s and served in the navy in World War II. But the possibility that one of my great-grandparents on the other side was an illegal immigrant brought a smile to the face of this columnist, an Eagle Scout Harvard graduate and the author of biographies of Samuel Adams and John F. Kennedy.

For if those ancestors of mine hadn't made it here, legally or illegally, the odds are they'd have been killed either by the Nazis or the Soviet Communists, and I wouldn't even exist, let alone be writing books on American history or opining on American immigration policy. My reaction to the disclosure wasn't shame or embarrassment, but relief: thank God they got in before it was too late.

So much of the reaction to President Obama's immigration announcement has centered on the timing in relation to elections. Six years since he was elected, he finally acted. After the mid-term election, he acted. To me, though, the more relevant timing is the proximity to Thanksgiving, the holiday on which we remember an earlier group of immigrants to America who were fleeing religious persecution, and a day on which we take special care to give thanks for this land and its freedom.

We're lucky, all of our ancestors got here early enough that they were all undocumented.

Posted by at November 26, 2014 9:30 AM

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