THANKSGIVING 🦃🏈🍺🍽🍁SHOULD REMIND US OF OUR REFUGEE ORIGINS — But Trump & His White Nationalist Gang Have Distorted The Message!

Ishtar Tharoor writes in the Washington Post:

“For the Pilgrims, there was certainly a lot to be grateful for. Their radical brand of Puritanism, identified as “Separatism” because of its disavowal of the Church of England, left them vulnerable to fines, imprisonment and persecution in their home country. They spent more than a decade in exile in what is now the Netherlands, but suffered financially and feared they would be in danger if the political winds in the continent started blowing in a different direction. The preceding and following years in European history present a litany of religious massacres and pogroms.

So they set sail aboard a couple of ships, including one famously named the Mayflower, as early modern refugees seeking a better life in a different part of the world. President Barack Obama summoned that simple aspiration two Thanksgivings ago, when the mood in his country was decidedly hostile to the plight of Syrian refugees.

“Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims — men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families,” said Obama in 2015. “What makes America America is that we offer that chance. We turn Lady Liberty’s light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God’s children are worthy of our compassion and care. That’s part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.”

Obama’s successor, President Trump, doesn’t quite seem to agree. He grandstands on a nationalist platform that looks darkly upon migrants and has sought to stanch the already thin flow of refugees into the United States. His erstwhile ideologue, Stephen K. Bannon, recently declared the United States is not a “nation of immigrants” — as the popular saying goes — but a “nation of citizens.”

That rhetoric shadowed Trump’s remarks at the traditional annual White House turkey pardoning ritual on Tuesday. “This Thursday, as we give thanks for our cherished loved ones, let us also renew our bonds of trust, loyalty and affection between our fellow citizens as members of a proud national family of Americans,” Trump said.

For the American right wing, the Thanksgiving story offers a different parable that has nothing to do with refugees. For decades, conservatives argued that a shift in farming practices toward private plots and away from communal farming was what saved the embattled Massachusetts colony from extinction. “So began the American recoil from collectivism,” noted Washington Post columnist George Will in 2006 in a piece that linked Thanksgiving to “the ascent of individualism.”

. . . .

Whatever the case, of course, there’s no happy ending for the indigenous people who attended the first Thanksgiving feast, bearing five deer hunted for the occasion. Contact with Europeans before the Pilgrims’ arrival had already led to smallpox eradicating whole communities. The years that followed would complete their dispossession and disappearance.

Strangely, at a time when the American far right decries the existential threat posed by refugees with supposedly fundamentalist religious convictions, they have no problem aligning with the country’s original migrants.“



Read the complete piece at the link.

I absolutely agree with Tharoor that the Pilgrims fit squarely within today’s legal definition of “refugee.” Indeed, I granted a number of similar “religiously based” cases to Christians, Muslims, and other “20th and 21st Century Pilgrims.”

But, I can imagine someone like Jeff Sessions and some of the judges who work for him finding that the harm feared by the Pilgrims was “mere discrimination, not persecution;” or that it was “primarily economically, rather than religiously or politically motivated;” or that the Pilgrims were “firmly resettled” in the Netherlands. As one of my former BIA judicial colleagues used to say, there are lots of ways to deny asylum once you decide that’s the result you want.

We are, always have been, and always will be a “nation of refugees,” and there is nothing that the Trump-Sessions-Bannon-Miller White Nationalist crowd ultimately can do to change that.

But, among other things, I’m very thankful that I’m not a refugee in their world today.

Happy Thanksgiving,




IMMIGRATION HISTORY: Here’s The Chase-Burman Mini-Library Of Immigration History, Courtesy Of “The Green Card!”

75 Years of the BIA

“Matter of L-, 1 I&N Dec. 1 (BIA 1940), was issued on August 29, 1940, the day before the Board of Immigration Appeals came into existence.2 Some background about the Board’s early history is required to explain this. From 1922 until 1940, a five-member Board of Review existed within the Department of Labor to review all immigration cases. The Board of Review had no decision- making authority of its own; it could only recommend action to the Secretary of Labor. In 1933, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was formed within the Department of Labor,3 and from 1933 until 1939 the Board of Review made its recommendations to the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization.4″


Commentary on “Pattern or Practice” Persecution

In INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, its landmark 1987 decision establishing that the burden of proving a “well-founded fear of persecution” is significantly less than fifty percent, the Supreme Court relied on the following scholarly example: “Let us…presume that it is known that in applicant’s country of origin every tenth adult male person is either put to death or sent to some remote labor camp… In such a case it would be only too apparent that anyone who managed to escape from the country would have ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted’ on his eventual return.”2 While the Court’s decision predates the “pattern or practice” regulation by more than three years, the example it relies on (which predates the regulation by 24 years) presents a classic “pattern or practice” scenario. The hypotheti- cal establishes (1) a group, i.e., all adult males in a particular country; and (2) information establishing systemic persecution of one in ten members of such group. all members of the group therefore have a well-founded without the need to explain their individual circumstances.”


The History of Racism in U.S. Immigration

“Racism was codified in this country’s original natu- ralization law. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited the right to naturalize to “free white persons.” Following the Civil War, the Act of July 14, 1870, added “aliens of African nativity” and “aliens of African descent” to those eligible to naturalize. However, all others considered “non-white” continued to be barred from obtaining United States citizenship. In 1922, the Supreme Court denied Takao Ozawa, a Japanese immigrant who had lived in the U.S. for 20 years, the right to become a naturalized citizen because he “clearly” was “not Caucasian.” In interpreting the term “free white persons,” the Court found that “the framers did not have in mind the brown or yellow races of Asia.”1 In United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind,2 the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion regarding an “upper-caste Hindu” who claimed a lineage classi ed as “Aryan” or “Caucasian.” The Court determined that “Aryan” related to “linguistic, and not at all with physical, characteristics,” and concluded that the term “free white persons” as understood by the common man, would not include those of Hindu ancestry.3 It was not until passage of the McCarran-Walter Act in 1952 that the naturalization law was amended to read that “[t]he right of a person to become a naturalized citizen shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex…”4


Read all three of Judge Chase’s outstanding histories and get some “instant perspective” on how we got to where we are today as a nation of immigrants. There was no shortage of hypocracy. And, I submit that in the course of history some of today’s politicians advocating restrictive racially and religiously charged immigration policies are going to look just as distasteful, arrogant, prejudiced, and ignorant as some of the judges, lawmakers, and government officials described in these articles.




Judge Chase has reminded me that there is a fourth part to this collection:

The History of U.S. Asylum Law

“U.S. asylum policy is a product of the tension between the public sentiments of compassion and fear. In the words of a former Deputy UN High Commissioner: “The public will not allow governments to be generous if it believes they have lost control.” 1 Although asylum can be traced back at least to the Old Testament, for all practical purposes, U.S. asylum policy began on the eve of World War II.”



HISTORY: Paul Fanlund In Madison Cap Times: How We Got From Nixon To Trump!

Fanlund writes in an op-ed:

“When Roger Ailes died, essays about him ranged from adoring to vilifying. As creator of Fox News, he was perhaps the nation’s most influential political messenger — or propagandist — of the past 50 years.

One aspect of any honest obituary, of course, was his misogyny. Ailes was finally forced out at Fox in 2016 after years of sexual harassing women employees. His 17-year-old son threatened his father’s accusers at the funeral, warning mourners that he wanted “all the people who betrayed my father to know that I’m coming after them, and hell is coming with me.”

But what I found most interesting in immersing myself in analyses of Ailes’ life was how little his craft had to do with liberal versus conservative ideology.

Rather, Ailes was perhaps the master of the dark art of inventing and relentlessly reinforcing hateful caricatures of political opponents — in his case, people of color, bureaucrats, university professors and, of course, the media.

His brilliant execution of that art culminated in Donald Trump.

Ailes, as is widely known, learned from Richard Nixon, for whom he worked as a young television consultant. Nixon launched his political career much earlier by championing “forgotten Americans,” lunch-pail-toting working men whose fortunes, in Nixon’s telling, were stymied by taxes and regulations imposed upon them by far-away elites.

The rest, as they say, is history. Nixon appealed to his “silent majority” to stand against anti-war and civil rights protesters. Democrats opened the floodgates to Republican demagoguery by advancing civil rights. The GOP today has broadened its pool of villains to include Latino and Muslim immigrants.

The 1980s brought jolly Ronald Reagan with his fantastical stories about welfare queens, followed by George H.W. Bush’s law and order and patriotism themes, and so on.

“Individual issues would come and go — acid, amnesty and abortion in 1972, and immigration, political correctness and transgender bathrooms in 2016 — but the attacks on liberals as elite, out of touch and protective of the ‘wrong people’ came from the same playbook,” wrote David Greenberg, a Rutgers professor of history and journalism, in a New York Times op-ed on Ailes.

OK, but why does it always work?

Why are so many — especially older, white, middle-class people — so susceptible to this toxic narrative when it is clear that the trickle-down GOP policies that follow do them so little good?

Maybe, I theorize, it has something to do with how we were all taught.

I’ve talked with many friends about the flag-waving jingoism of our pre-college education, in which our nation was portrayed as perfect, our leaders without fault.

My formal education began when Dwight Eisenhower was president, an era of unfettered national pride. We were a paragon of liberty and justice and never fought in unjust wars. It was as if someone decided that American children could not process the slightest balance or shade of gray.

In this frame, Andrew Jackson was, as Trump likes to say, a glorious “swashbuckler” like himself, not a president who drove Native Americans from their homes, killing thousands in the process. Nor were we ever taught that Jackson, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other forefathers owned slaves.

It seems the goal was always to convey “American exceptionalism,” or, more bluntly, reinforce a cultish sense of American superiority.”


Fanlund’s entire op-ed, at the above link, is well worth a read!

Lots of folks don’t like it when we put US history in perspective. For example, during the “glory days” of my childhood in the 1950’s millions of African Americans throughout the nation, and particularly in the South, were deprived of the basic rights of US citizenship. This was notwithstanding the clear dictates of the 14th Amendment, which had been added nearly a century earlier.

The US and many state governments merely decided not to enforce the law of the land. So much for all of the “rule of law” and “nation of laws” malarkey purveyed by right wingers today.

Indeed, many southern states enacted discriminatory laws that were directly contrary to the 14th Amendment. And, amazingly, for the majority of the 19th and 20th Centuries, courts of law at all levels were complicit in enforcing these unconstitutional laws and ignoring the14th Amendment!



HuffPost: Larry Strauss — Trump, Sessions, & Co. Are On The Wrong Side Of History — “If you are knowingly hurting children, there is something wrong with you, whether or not you have the law on your side.”

Larry Strauss, veteran high school teacher and basketball coach; author, “Students First and Other Lies” writes in HuffPost:

“Trump and his supporters have their own moral arguments. They say we must put America and Americans first. Of course these phrases express geographic ignorance, since many of the people they wish to expel are, in fact, Americans (the U.S. being but one country in America). But we know what they mean. Why should citizens of the United States be sympathetic to people from other places when so many of our own people are struggling so mightily? One can argue that undocumented individuals are not actually taking away jobs or other resources from those born here, but it’s a tough sell to someone whose financial fortunes have collapsed in the last five or ten or twenty years. The students in my classroom who were brought here or born to parents who came here will almost uniformly go further than those parents and enjoy prosperity far beyond that of those parents. It is not surprising that they are resented by those Americans (of the U.S. variety) whose prospects are far less than those of their parents and grandparents.

But politics and policies born of resentment cannot be good for the soul of our country. Nor can any law — ANY LAW ANYWHERE — that, for any reason, hurts children. If you are knowingly hurting children, there is something wrong with you, whether or not you have the law on your side.

Every year the school at which I teach enrolls students in my classes and whoever those children are I teach the hell out of their class for them — and so do most of my colleagues.

When you work with kids you don’t decide who deserves to be taught and encouraged. Where they come from and how they got here just doesn’t matter. I once taught the grand-daughter of a Nazi who’d escaped to El Salvador after World War II. The girl owed me no apology or explanation. Just her best effort and her homework on time — most of the time.

So I am not sympathetic to those who wish to punish the children of those who snuck into our country — or those who came on false pretenses.

I wish that Jeff Sessions and his ICE men and women would restrict their deportations to serious criminals — those no country wants. Why are federal agents wasting time and resources on people who’ve committed minor crimes? Are such actions any better than a municipality shutting down a lemonade stand because of a city ordinance?

Here’s an idea: if the crime of an undocumented immigrant does not exceed the crime of Jeff Sessions himself (perjury, that is) then let them stay. And if the harm of the deportation exceeds the harm of the deportee’s crime then let’s have a little collective heart.

We are a nation of laws but if those laws are being used to harm people for political expedience by indulging bigotry and ethnic paranoia, then those laws do not deserve out respect and the politicians exploiting them do not deserve our support.

Those who deported Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the 1930s were within the law — but on the wrong side of history.

Those who interned Japanese Americans in the 1940s were within the law — but on the wrong side of history.

Those who forced Native American children into border schools to assimilate them were within the law — but on the wrong side of history.

Trump and Sessions are within the law — at least they are on immigration enforcement — but their cruelty is dragging us all onto the wrong side of history.”


I couldn’t agree more with Strauss’s sentiments, although I’m not willing to say that everything Trump, Sessions, Kelly, and company are proposing is within the law.  In fact, they seem to be heading toward some massive violations of the due process guaranteed by law.

However, “nations that turn their backs on children will be dealt with harshly by history” is the gist of an earlier op-ed that I wrote criticizing the Obama Administration’s inhumane and wrong-headed prioritization of recently arrived women and children for removal.

While the “Obama priorities” were rescinded upon the change of Administration, the Trump Administration appears to have an even crueler and more inhumane fate in store for women and children seeking refuge from the Northern Triangle: detention, expedited removal, attempts to deny the fair opportunity to apply for asylum, intentional restriction of access to counsel, criminal prosecution of parents seeking to save their children, and an overall atmosphere of coercion and mistreatment meant to encourage those who have recently arrived to abandon their claims for refuge and to discourage others from coming to seek refuge under our laws. Only time will tell whether the Article III Courts will allow the Administration to get away with it.

I particularly like Strauss’s use of the “Sessions standard” — anybody who has done no more than perjure themselves under oath should be allowed to stay. And, talk about someone who has lived on the “wrong side of history” for his entire life, yet stubbornly refuses to change:  well, that’s the very definition of Jeff Sessions’s depressingly uninspiring career. Given a chance for some redemption late in life, he’s instead choosing to “double down” on his biases and narrow outlook. Jeff had better hope that there’s forgiveness for his sins out there somewhere in the next world.






WashPost: “Rural America” Isn’t As “White” As Most People (& Politicians) Think — “People Of Color” Are 20% — And, Even More Than Their White Counterparts, They Are Being Ignored By The Rest Of Us!

Mara Casey Tieken, an Assistant Professor of Education at Bates College, writes:

“Last year’s earthshaking election brought new attention to rural America. This attention is overdue — rural America has long been largely ignored by reporters, researchers and policymakers — and much of it is useful, as this increasingly urban-centric country tries to understand and reconnect with those living far from cities.

But so far, the narrative emerging about rural America has been woefully incomplete, because so much of the media coverage has focused on only one slice of it: rural white America. Some stories are clear about their scope: Their authors have intentionally chosen a particular geographic and racial population to explore and explain. Others are less obvious in their focus, though details — region of the country or photographs — soon make explicit what is merely implied or assumed. Either way, though, a particular racial narrative is being told.

There’s another rural America that exists beyond this rural white America. Nearly 10.3 million people, about one-fifth of rural residents, are people of color. Of this population, about 40 percent are African American, 35 percent are nonwhite Hispanic, and the remaining 25 percent are Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander or multiracial. And this rural America is expected to grow in the coming decades, as rural areas see a rapid increase in Latino immigration.
This rural America, much like rural white America, can be found from coast to coast. But these rural Americans tend to live in different places from rural whites: across the Mississippi Delta and the Deep South; throughout the Rio Grande Valley; on reservations and native lands in the Southwest, Great Plains and Northwest.

This rural America has a different history from rural white America: a history of forced migration, enslavement and conquest. This rural America receives even lower pay and fewer protections for its labor than does rural white America. And, as my own research shows, this rural America attends very different schools than rural white America, schools that receive far less funding and other resources.
In fact, the relationship between rural white communities and rural communities of color is much like the relationship between urban white communities and urban communities of color: separate and unequal.”


Actually, seems like rural communities of all ethnicities share some strong common interests. They need jobs, education, roads, and services which are essential but not necessarily “cost-effective” and therefore have to be underwritten largely by those in “blue states” and urban areas.

Hard to seen how any part of rural America rationally aligns with Trump & the GOP, the party of handouts for the rich, destruction of public education, dirty air, polluted water, money wasted on xenophobic immigration enforcement, big weapons, lousy to non-existent health care, Wall Street, and no realistic plans for job creation.

But, for much of American post-Civil-War history, politicians of both parties have been amazingly successful at enticing white rural America to ignore  it’s logical community of interest with African American, Native American, and Hispanic rural residents and to instead vote to prop up an establishment whose genuine interest in helping rural America is ephemeral at best.