Helene Stapinski writes in this NYT op-ed
“From 1906 to 1915, the year Vita died, Basilicata lost nearly 40 percent of its population to emigration. The Italian landowners — the same ones who raped and starved my relatives and maybe yours — were devastated by American emigration, left with too few hands to work their land.
The Italian government, initially happy to see its poorest and most troublesome people leave the country, realized that the best and strongest were now leaving as well, looking for a better life and higher wages. Before a United States congressional commission, a politician from Calabria testified that emigration from the South had gone too far, adding that he was sorry Columbus had ever discovered America.
The United States government used the theories of Cesare Lombroso, a 19th-century Northern Italian doctor, to stop more of his suffering, starving countrymen and women from immigrating.
Lombroso, a traitor to his own people, was convinced that there was such a thing as a “natural born criminal.” He measured the heads and body parts of thousands of fellow Italians — particularly Southerners — and came up with a description that matched the description of most of the immigrants coming over at the time: short, dark, hairy, big noses and ears.
He compared them to lower primates and said they were more likely to commit violent crimes when they arrived in the United States than immigrants from Germany, Norway, Austria, Sweden, England and every other European country.
Lombroso — and a growing sea of American nativists — branded the Southern Italians savages and rapists, blaming them for the crime that was on the rise in the United States.
The United States Immigration Commission concluded in the infamous 1911 Dillingham report: “Certain kinds of criminality are inherent in the Italian race. In the popular mind, crimes of personal violence, robbery, blackmail and extortion are peculiar to the people of Italy.”
The Immigration Act of 1924 barred most Italians from coming into the country — causing immigration from Italy to fall 90 percent. Even though the vast majority of those coming to America were good, honest working people and not criminals.
Italian-Americans who today support the president’s efforts to keep Muslims and Mexicans out of the country need to look into their own histories — and deep into their hearts. After all, they’re just a couple of generations removed from that same racism, hatred and abuse. Had our ancestors tried to come days, weeks or months after the 1924 ban, we may not have even been born.”
Read the entire op-ed at the link.
Notwithstanding Trump and his White Nationalist gang (whose anti-American, anti-world efforts were on display this week), we are a nation of immigrants.