Sunday, June 17, 2018

Echoes of the Past, hope for the future - Thoughts on immigration in 2018

In 1940, the United States Congress passed the Alien Registration Act (also known as the Smith Act).  This image is from my grandmother’s copy of the document.  The rest of the form with her information was filled out, apparently, by my dad (I recognize the handwriting), in preparation for a trip to the post office for an interview.  Anna Wolf Karol had arrived in the United States through Ellis Island in 1904, brought to this country to join relatives already in Kansas City .  Her cousin Freda Itzkowitz (Shalinsky) may have come at the same time, and her mother Lena appears to have come a couple of years later, all likely from Poland.  

  Anna did not become a citizen until 1941.   It is likely that this change in 1940 in American policy, which, if you read the document, changed her status from resident immigrant to potential subversive/pariah, spurred her on to naturalize.  That happened on September 22, 1941.   

    I share this because it shows that an arbitrary policy change can turn someone from being a treasured community member to a near-criminal.  And the fact that Japanese-Americans were likely identified because of this act (and then put in internment camps) is maddening to me. 

    I am grateful that my immigrant grandmother was able to come to this country at a time when there were NO QUOTAS and, by and large, immigrants were WELCOME.    It was her journey that made new generations of Karols possible.   Thanks, Bubby.

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