We Have Been Here Before and it is Ugly

By: Jerry Rubin

In his haste to feed the anti-immigrant frenzy of his base, President Trump has gone so far as to urge the deportation of a group of Christian Indonesians in New Hampshire who face certain extreme hardship in their country of origin. Thankfully, Justice Patti Saris understood the danger they would face upon being deported and provided them a temporary reprieve, not missing the opportunity to raise the specter of the famous Exodus story. Apparently even Christians refugees, celebrated in the earlier days of the administration, are now fair game.

We have been here before. When the administration recently proposed cutting legal immigration by half, it was the first time since the 1920’s that such a draconian policy was proposed. At that time, racist lawmakers sought to exclude Jews, Italians, and other non-Aryan Europeans from entering the country.

In 1924, Meyer and Lazar Rebach dreamed of moving from Bialystock to the United States to leave behind the discrimination, violence, and limited opportunities for Jews in the Pale of Settlement. With the passage of the immigration laws limiting non-Aryan Europeans, they made their way to Buenos Aires, Argentina. From there, Meyer somehow entered the United States, leaving his brother behind to start a new life. Arriving in Chicago, Meyer, my grandfather, made a distant family connection and changed his name to Rubin.

Meyer eventually made his way to New York City, married Sadie Mankuta, a union garment worker, became a union painter, and raised two children. One of them, my father, was able to take advantage of free tuition at City College, became an accountant, eventually a successful corporate executive, married Blanche Friedman, who became a first grade teacher, and was able to raise and send my sister and me on to college and careers. It’s a common American story.

Or at least it was.

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