Garner J. Cline 1979 Letter: Soviet Jews in Rome

Authored by Marianne Brennan

Figure 1: Letter from Peter Regis to Garner J. Cline, in 1979, regarding the overflow of Soviet Jew refugees in Rome.

One of the hot topics in today’s political climate is the refugee crisis. On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning refugees from Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days, and suspended the US refugee programme for 120 days.[1] This contentious national issue is nothing new. In fact, the banning of refugees can be traced back through US history.

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President Kennedy Press Conference on the Immigration and Nationality Act

President Kennedy Press Conference on the Immigration and Nationality Act

Authored by: Ariana Kaleta

President Kennedy Press Conference on the Immigration and Nationality Act June 11, 1963,                     Abby Rowe/White House
“Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we  can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.”
John F Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants

Here we see a relaxed President Kennedy, laughing during a break at a press conference but what he was discussing were serious matters for the future face of America.  The President was compelled to write “A Nation of Immigrants” after repeatedly hearing the stories of immigrant’s rights groups, such as at this meeting with the American Committee on Italian Migration.

When Kennedy first came into office, Henry Cabot Lodge’s Immigration Act of 1924 had been diligently enforced under the firm hand of the Immigration Restriction League (a prominent lobbying group founded in 1884). [1]  For four decades, the Immigration Act of 1924 used quotas to prohibit all ‘non-nativist’ nationalities, in particular Jewish, Irish and Italians fleeing Europe. However, it also had punitive effects on the almost historically unrecognized Arabic and Asian immigrants.[2]  As the threat of communism and post war depression flooded across Europe and Asia, waves of immigrants risked their lives to journey to America, only to be turned away at Ellis Island, due to these racist and religious discriminatory laws. Continue reading

A Perspective on Italian Immigration in the 1960s

Authored by Pamela Griffin Hansen

 A watermarked image of the Maxime Maurice Caretti letter.

Letter from Maxime
Maurice Caretti

A letter dated June 15, 1963, from Maxime Maurice Caretti of Brooklyn to the House of Representatives Committee on Immigration, is archived in the Endres Collection held by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS). Arthur P. Endres was legal counsel to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and International Law, from 1973 to 1989. (CMS Archivist 2015) The Endres Collection is comprised of thirteen linear feet of documents and records kept by Mr. Endres as part of his immigration-related legal work for the House of Representatives, ibid. Mr. Caretti’s letter is one of just a few pieces of original correspondence from private citizens found in the Endres Collection, ibid. Continue reading

The Ethiopian Committee on Immigration, Inc.: Social Justice in Action

Authored by Leslie Wybiral

The Ethiopian Committee on Immigration, Inc. 1983 Fundraising Letter

The Ethiopian Committee on Immigration, Inc. 1983 Fundraising Letter

The Ethiopian Committee on Immigration, Inc. (ECI) was formed in October, 1982. (Mekbib, 1983). ECI’s main objective is to find a suitable solution to immigration problems faced by Ethiopian citizens in the United States. (Mekbib, 1983). Its principal concern is therefore humanitarian. (Mekbib, 1983).

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American Committee on Italian Migration: Proceedings of the Third National Symposium

Authored by Jannette Sheffield

First page of material presented at the American Committee on Italian Migration's Third National Symposium

First page of material presented at the American Committee on Italian Migration’s Third National Symposium

A defining principle of American democracy is the inherent equality of all mankind.  America’s history of immigration legislation illustrates, however, that advocates of equality must often struggle to cause this principle to be reflected in law.  This document, which contains excerpts from material presented at the American Committee on Italian Migration’s (ACIM) Third National Symposium on Italian Immigration and American National Interest, shows that legislation antithetical to the values of democracy can be reformed through activism.  The document highlights ACIM’s role in the trajectory from the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, which resulted in large-scale national and racial discrimination, to the race-neutral reforms of the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965.  It exhibits ACIM’s advocacy for Italian immigrants in the U.S. political system, its instrumental role in influencing legislative reform and its use of Christian principles to inspire political participation. Continue reading