Crying children confined like animals in dog kennels behind chicken wire, torn from their desperate parents in modern-day internment camps under the guise of so called “law,” is reminiscent of the darkest chapters in American history.
During these chapters the best Americans always understood the blatant contradiction of the so-called “law” of the day with the founding principles of the United States of America, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These founding principles make no distinction between US citizens and non-citizens. They did not distinguish between free and slave in the past, and they do not discriminate against the migrant today.
On a motorcycle with four occupants – Wilcy, Smith, me, Thomas, and Michelet (picture 1) – I was on an adventurous sort of pilgrimage to the sites of the Haitian Revolution near Cap-Haitien from March 11-21, 2016. We visited Bois Caiman (picture 2), where everything began with a big Voodoo-ceremony on August 14, 1791; Bréda (picture 3) where revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture grew up, and the battlefield of Vertières (picture 4) where the revolution was ultimately victorious when Dessalines’ army of ex-slaves defeated Napoleon’s troops on November 18, 1803.
Also, King Henry-Christophe’s palace ruins of Sans Souci in Milot (picture 5), and the nearby massive Citadelle La Ferriere (picture 6).
Respite from the bumpy motorcycle ride offered Ile a Rats (picture 7), a beautiful mini-island that Columbus “discovered” for Europe on his first voyage to Hispaniola. The last picture shows Michelet, me, and Wilcy standing on a sandbank in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
A few years ago I asked officials in Germany and German American organizations in vain to protect a unique building in the Bronx, that symbolized the democratic history of today’s Germany and at the same time honored the history of immigration in the United States and especially in the Bronx, as well as the history of the abolition of slavery and the Civil War. It was called the Melrose Turn Verein and I took a picture of it in 2008, when I first moved to the South Bronx.
It has since unfortunately been torn down which is why I am memorializing it here. The history of the building on Courtland Avenue and E. 150th Street was closely associated with the German revolutionaries of the 1848er generation, Friedrich Hecker (co-founder of the Turner Movement in the United States), Franz Sigel (Member of the Melrose Turn Verein and Civil War general), and Carl Schurz (Sigel’s pallbearer at the Melrose Turn Verein and Civil War general). These men and others represent democratic Germany’s Found...
The ancestors of most Americans of European descent immigrated to the United States without any legal restrictions on immigration. Had the same legal restrictions on immigration existed then that exist today, many would have been considered illegal immigrants. There was no “line” to stand in (however ill defined) and no excessive paperwork to complete like I experienced when I went through the immigration process between 2000 and 2014.
The laws restricting immigration to the United States today have a distinctly racist origin. The reasoning behind them was historically driven by a wrong-headed Eugenic ideology that imagined humanity to be separated into different biological “races” (an idea since refuted by genetic research) of which some (i.e., Northern Europeans) were viewed as superior to all others. For example, the Page Act of 1875, the first true Immigration law in the United States, restricted Asian immigration. Its stated purpose was to “end the danger of cheap Chinese labor an...
Imagine an application form that asked you as one of the first questions whether you were a “sheperd” or a “non-sheperd” (anything from pet groomer to a CEO) and the instructions on the form indicated that applications for “sheperds” would have to go through the Department of Homeland Security while the applications for “non-sheperds” would be handled by USCIS (the US Citizenship and Immigration Services). You may wonder, why? Sheep? And, when was this form last updated? A native US citizen never gets to see this form. As a so called “legal alien” I got a good laugh out of it while “standing in line” for my green card.
Anti-Immigration activists often argue illegal immigrants “should just stand in line” like legal immigrants as if there was a discernible line in which to stand. I find this attempt to pull legal immigrants into the xenophobic camp offensive. By far not everyone gets a chance to “stand in line” and I was privileged to do so. In the process I spent 14 years of my life com...
As I am an immigrant in my new country - I moved from Germany to the US in 2000 and got my US-German dual citizenship in 2014 - I look over to my old country and can't believe the changes I see. What I had dreamed of and expected in vain from a progressive government, a Germany with a "culture of welcome" towards immigrants, has become a reality under the leadership of a conservative politician, Angela Merkel.
The other day I attended a reception at the German Consulate to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Action Reconciliation's collaboration with Project Ezra, when a survivor of the Holocaust got up and stated that he wishes he could hug Angela Merkel and say to her personally "Thank you." For him, Germany's openness towards refugees from Syria and other countries symbolized a break with Germany's racist past.
During the Holiday season my thoughts are with the new arrivals in Germany and I am for the first time in my life somewhat proud to be German.