Monthly Archives: November 2015

“My dear Mr. President” – My Illegal Grandfather’s Last-Hope Letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt

When my American-born mother was seven, and just becoming fluent in English, the United States government threatened her immigrant father with deportation. And for good reason.

After fighting on the side of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – part of the Central Powers opposing the Allies during World War I – my grandfather escaped his war-torn country for a better life in America. However, he didn’t come through Ellis Island.

I have no documentation of his passage, but I do know that his ship docked in Canada and he slipped across the border.

The most likely reason for this is the Immigration Act of 1921, passed just before my grandfather crossed the Atlantic. The act sought to limit the number of post-war immigrants pouring into America by setting a quota on each nationality, based on the previous census. Without a valid visa, my grandfather could not gain entry to the country of his dreams.

Miraculously, with no English language skills whatsoever, he made his way down to New Jersey, where his brother and sister had already settled. He embraced his new life as he embraced his new country, and soon married and had a family.

But by 1940, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) finally caught up with him. No matter that he supported a wife and three children. His time had run out.

“We’re moving back to Hungary,” my mother told all her friends. The idea excited the rosy-cheeked girl. Her mother and father, however, were not at all happy about the prospect of about returning to Europe. Continue reading

Red Kids, Blue Kids: How Environmental Influences Are Coloring America’s Politics

Environment, we now know, plays a greater role in how children think and behave than was once believed possible, including whether they grow up to be Conservative or Liberal.

At last night’s Democratic forum, Senator Bernie Sanders rattled off a few questions for white, working-class Americans. Questions such as, Why do you keep voting against your own best interests? Why are you voting for people who are going to deny you health care, send your job to China, and not going to raise the minimum wage?

I’ve often wondered the same thing myself.

Young Boy voting

Of course, listening to Conservative (read xenophobic) talk radio doesn’t help.

Some of these wingnuts – the ones who vomit toxic waste at the very mention of the common welfare – like to say they’re being patriotic. Or they say it’s the church’s job.

The truth is, the development of empathy – or the lack thereof – starts Continue reading