Sometimes History Should Rhyme

This is the immigration record of my great-grandmother, entering Ellis Island from Italy in 1935.



They asked her if she was a polygamist or an anarchist or whether she supported the violent overthrow of the US government.

She said no (red box). And so they let her in–despite the violence of the Italian Mafia and the terrorism Italian anarchists were committing in the US–along with her two young daughters, reuniting them with her husband and thus preventing them from possibly becoming three of the 150,000+ Italian civilians who died during WWII.

I am heartbroken today that we are not doing the same thing for this generation’s mothers and children who are trying to escape war and reunite with their families.

I am heartbroken as an American who has benefited from our previous willingness to welcome immigrants, but I am more deeply bothered as a believer in the Bible and a follower of Jesus and a member of the LDS Church.

40 comments for “Sometimes History Should Rhyme

  1. Yes, very much so, to everything you said. My city has benefited tremendously from Somali immigrants. There are a lot of awful things about this executive order, but one of the worst is that it bars people who are trying to escape some of the worst ongoing conflicts in the world. Our treatment of refugees was already shabby, but this is horrible.

  2. The thought just occurred to me that perhaps the recognition of this kind of parallel is one of the reasons why we should be doing our family history.

  3. Look how your grandmother’s coming has blessed us. I’m grateful for my country of immigrants.

  4. Amen, Julie Smith! That is precisely the reason we should do family history, imo. When done right it makes us more understanding of the experiences of the dead and more compassionate with the living.

  5. This is nuts. If this is in reference to the recent Exec. Order to halt immigration for 90 days while DHS and immigration offices re-calibrate their vetting process then it is a hysterical comparison. Might I add that the Obama administration had done the same thing with Iraq, and had identified the countries in the current Executive Order as part of an immigration caution list. Trump’s executive order does not identify “Muslims” or “Islam” as prohibitionary, but only regions where red flags have been popping up for years, and again only for 90 days while departments reevaluate their vetting process. This is not only sensible, but moral.

    If this is not in reference to the EO order, then my apologies, but the comparison in the post is also apples and oranges, as in fact the Italian Mafia and Radical Islam aren’t even in the same food group; whereas the first wanted (wants) financial control of its interests and assets (legal, illegal, or otherwise), the latter wants the decimation of the West and the death of all those who disagree. With such a radical and evil ideology as this, our borders and immigration policies should be very rigorous, and not nearly non-existent.

    I’m not defending Trump, and it appears his EO order does not seem to segregate out those who are already in transit with legal documentation (a big problem to be sure), but the order itself is proper, legal, moral, and above all sensible. I want a serious vetting process which has been lacking for years.

  6. John Lundwall, you should probably do some research into the Galleanists before you venture to comment on whether my analogy holds.

  7. Yes, John, but the relevant part of the story is that he inspired a terrorist movement in the US composed largely of Italian immigrants.

  8. John, Trump has no reason to ban immigration from Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Libya. This is nothing more than a xenophobic knee-jerk reaction by Trump designed to stir the pot, lash out at political opponents and critics, reassure his reactionary and xenophobic base of supporters that he is serious about what he said during the campaign, and test the waters to see what xenophobic policies he can get away with. Don’t be naive. The US already has in place a very rigorous screening process for refugees and never in the history of the US has a successful terrorist attack been carried out on US soil by anyone from any of these countries. That you call this act “moral” makes your plea that you are not defending Trump appear unconvincing and does not speak well of the degree of your enlightenment about the world. I don’t want to jump to the conclusion that you have a backward sense of morality, but your comment gives me pause.

    This is nothing like what Obama did in 2011. In May 2011, US officials arrested two Iraqi refugees to the US, who had been granted asylum, on charges of constructing improvised roadside bombs in Iraq before being granted asylum. In response to a stern reaction from Congress to the arrests, Obama ordered the reexamination of the records of 58,000 Iraqis settled in the US and increased screening procedures for visa applicants from Iraq, which significantly slowed down the process of granting asylum to Iraqi refugees for a period. Obama never halted immigration from Iraq. Trump completely halted it for the countries listed above. Second, Obama increased screening in direct response to an arrest of Iraqi-origin suspects living in the US. Trump’s temporary ban on immigration doesn’t appear to be in response to any incident involving refugees from these countries living in the US. The inability and/or outright refusal to separate between small radical groups operating in particular conflict-affected countries and regular everyday people living in those countries, many of whom take refuge because of becoming targets of said radical groups, is emblematic of an underlying ignorance about the world at best and xenophobia at worst.

  9. A friendly reminder that you are all chasing good things.

    John Lundwall -> Safety
    Everyone Else so far -> Compassion

    Good discussion.

  10. “That you call this act “moral” makes your plea that you are not defending Trump appear unconvincing and does not speak well of the degree of your enlightenment about the world.”

    So, in other words, if we we’re more enlightened, we would agree with you.

    “The inability … to separate between small radical groups operating in particular conflict-affected countries and regular everyday people living in those countries … is emblematic of an underlying ignorance about the world at best and xenophobia at worst.”

    I thought you might say something like that.

    Even after Trump won the presidency you still don’t get it. This is the very reason why he’s in office–because the regular Joes out there are tired of the left’s hubris. They are tired of the left’s incessant criticism of their minds and of the hearts. They are tired of being labeled ignorant, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, racist, etc., etc., etc. Trump didn’t win because those who voted for him are racist (or whatever label you want to apply). He won because those who voted for him are tired being *called* racist.

    Just 2 cents worth from a Never Trump voter.

  11. Sorry, Dan. My comment is too harsh. Don’t no how to fix it except to say that my handle will, hopefully, conceal my identity enough that we might be friendly at church.

  12. Individual citizens are free to be kind to their neighbors. The President’s temporary executive action doesn’t bar individual charity.

    Jesus gave counsel to individual persons. Individual persons should follow His teachings, on a voluntary basis. Jesus never gave counsel to Caesar or Herod. Nations don’t follow the teachings of Jesus; individuals do.

    Regardless of what a government does, I hope individuals will find ways to be kind to their neighbors — if means allow, even far-away neighbors.

    I am grateful that the United States has such a liberal immigration policy. Even with the recent executive action, the U.S.’s immigration policies and practices are still the most liberal in the world. That’s good news.

    I feel sorry for those honest people whose hopes are temporarily suspended.

  13. “Nations don’t follow the teachings of Jesus…”

    Wow. On the bright side, it’s good to see conservatives throwing out the whole “the U.S. is a Christian nation” thing. Just as long as they’re clear that that’s what they’re actually doing.

  14. Tim,

    It’s a choice, isn’t it? One cannot insist that the United States is not a Christian nation, as many self-styled progressives do, and then bemoan that their nation is not acting in a Christian manner.

    Even so, it is true that Jesus taught individuals, not nations. I hope the individual goodness of a nation’s citizens shines through in the nation’s public policy. But even in Christian nations, this doesn’t happen. Even allegedly Christian nations allow for pornography, abortion, and so forth. But no, no one can attack the recent executive action on the basis of Christianity, unless he or she insists that the nation follow all Christian teachings. No, immigration decisions are public policy matters, and those decisions must be made on public policy grounds.

    I hope individuals will always find ways to be kind to their neighbors.

  15. Trump: imposes a religious ban on immigration, revokes 100,000 visas, questions legitimacy of courts reviewing his actions.

    ji responds: “I hope individuals will always find ways to be kind to their neighbors.”

    I’m glad I checked this site today. ji is providing some very high-quality humor.

  16. “Even with the recent executive action, the U.S.’s immigration policies and practices are still the most liberal in the world. That’s good news.”

    This is sort of like saying that the US has the world’s best health care system. Depends on what measures you use. It is true that the US takes in the most immigrants per year in absolute terms, but it is a huge country; on a per capita basis the US is the 22nd most generous nation.

  17. Yeah, kinda like the difference between a bull and a bowl in a china shop. A very subtle difference, phonetically. But, oh, what a marvelous difference, practically.

  18. Tim,

    The United States has not sustained Elder Holland as a prophet. If he wants to influence public policy, he has to do so by persuasion, not by the authority of his office.

    But I appreciate his concern. As an individual, I share his concern. I hope he is successful in influencing others.

    You seem to resist the principle that Jesus taught individuals, not governments. Yet it is true. He taught individuals to be kind to their neighbors, and suggested an expansive concept of neighbor. But He never gave any teaching to Caesar in Rome, or Herod in Jerusalem, on public policy matters. Jesus was not a social justice warrior. Jesus wants to save individuals.

    There is no “Christian” answer to the public policy matter of immigration. The United States does not sin by controlling in-bound immigration. However, in our pluralistic society, individual citizens are free to try to influence their representatives. It is okay for a citizen’s religious thoughts to color his or her public policy opinions.

  19. And it continues! ji’s moral contortions are really delightful, from a certain point of view. He is the very model of a troll for Trump.

  20. Loursat,

    Yeah, sometimes we receive those who tell the truth as court jesters. It’s the only way we can handle the poignancy of their message. So, if the guy’s a little nuts or just plain crazy, then we can have our little chuckle and move along without having to deal with the fear of being reproved by what he’s saying.

  21. Anonymous,

    Any fool can make such a claim about anything. You prove nothing. Except about yourself.

  22. I should probably leave this to the local NT experts, but it seems to be untrue that Jesus was only preaching to individuals. Much of the Gospels are directed to Israel as a collective nation. And then there are the OT prophets, who are most explicitly addressing the nation. So the idea that Jesus only addressed individuals seems to be untrue, and wouldn’t even get you very far anyway if it were. Also, I don’t see the connection to immigration policy. What were we talking about, again?

  23. Jonathan,

    Can you share one example from the New Testament where Jesus called for changes in law? Just one? I don’t think you can, but I always want to learn. As I recollect, all of His teachings were to individuals; none were to Caesar or Herod or their governments.

  24. ji,

    What are your thoughts on the Proclamation on the Family? (Especially that last paragraph).

  25. JI, I can’t even figure out why we’re having this discussion, and I suspect that this won’t do much good, and I don’t get why you’re insisting that I come up with some specific thing that you know doesn’t exist. However, as far as Jesus calling for changes in law…um, Exodus? Leviticus? Jehovah sending prophets to tell kings of Judah and Israel how to conduct their foreign policy? It seems like Jesus as Jehovah had some quite specific things to say about laws and policy of all kinds. I have no idea what kind of immigration policy you’re in favor of, but it seems to me that your assertion that Jesus never called for changes in law just isn’t going to work in a Mormon context.

  26. Okay, so we are agreed — all of Jesus’s teachings in the New Testament were directed to individuals, and none to governments.

    Some among us are bewailing the president’s recent moves to limit immigration, suggesting that fellow Saints who support limitations are un-Christian. They err in such. Rather than calling others un-Christian, especially others within the household of faith, we would do better to actually follow the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught individuals to be kind to their neighbors, and offered an expansive definition of neighbor. Each of us is free to be kind to others, such as refugees nearby or far away. That seems more Christian to me than calling fellow Saints un-Christian in a public policy argument about immigration. Actually ministering to one’s neighbor as a voluntary act of love seems more Christian than arguing and labeling in disputations on public policy matters.

    In short, I reject the notion that, to be a good Christian, one must oppose the president’s recent moves. It is unseemly when some Christians say other Christians are less Christian because of disagreements on public policy matters, or when some Christians claim that Jesus is on their side in a public policy disputation.

  27. JI, while I’d agree people tend to overreact to those they disagree with politically, I’m a bit loath to say we can’t talk about what government ought be.

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