It Takes A Village – VNV Tuesday: Family, Immigration, and History 8/8/17

“The toes of Miss Liberty found a home on American soil.”

The comments of Stephen Miller and the restrictive immigration standards of the proposed RAISE Act have caused me to think a lot about immigration lately. I’m in the privileged position as a white woman to have been able to trace my family tree back many generations; in some cases, that translates to many centuries too. I am 100% a child of immigrants, and of the seven lines I’ve been able to trace back beyond my maternal and paternal great-grandparents, only two lines spoke English as their primary language. It troubles me deeply that people, especially those in my own family, see no problem with a condition that would require English-language ability before allowing immigration. The claim that learning English is now more accessible than it was in my great-grandparents’ day falls short for me, because it presumes access to a type of education that is still more available for the privileged, the white, and the western European. But then, I suppose that’s the point.

My great-grandparents are on this page of the 1900 census, and eight years after arriving in the United States, they could not speak English.  By the 1910 census, my great-grandfather is listed as speaking English; my great-grandmother is still listed as a German speaker.

Another set of great-grandparents are on this page of the 1910 census, 17 years after their arrival in the States. Great-grandfather speaks English; great-grandmother still does not.

This is from the 1871 English census, which includes my 2x great uncle. He is a convict-inmate of Dartmoor Convict Prison; by 1874, he has emigrated, is working, and living with and supporting his widowed mother (my 2x great-grandmother). Would he have been allowed in under the RAISE Act?

This is the naturalization record for my grandfather; a naturalization made possible by enlisting in the U.S. Army during WWI. He served as a translator (since German was still spoken in his home, he had not lost his fluency) and was wounded at the Battle of St. Mihiel in 1918. He spent six months recovering in hospitals in France before returning stateside and being honorably discharged. When we insist on English, do we risk losing future translators?  Do we really want to be a country that turns its backs on all but the affluent, the privileged, and the “successful”?

I am far from the only one with serious reservations about the RAISE Act. Twitter provides a sampling:

And nobody, but nobody, is going to deprive me of my Basset hounds!

About DoReMI 165 Articles
Now a Michigander, by way of Ohio, Illinois, Scotland, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. Gardener. Sewer. Democrat. Resister.


  1. Good morning, DoReMi and thanks for the double duty. Hey, Meese. It’s pre-hump day. It won’t be long until the weekend. I commented in 🍊about my heritage (it’s all written down somewhere but wonder what will happen to it when us “elders” pass on). It doesn’t seem to interest the younger generation, although I got my daughter and SIL an ancestry DNA test last year for their birthdays. She’s quite a mixture but definitely European/British Isles.

    Ok, my guess with the basset origin is France.

    • I think you have to start seeing your own mortality before family heritage starts seeming like something to preserve. My daughter is 28 and tolerates when I blather about my latest breakthrough/discovery, but she doesn’t connect to any of it at a personal level. Part of this, I’m sure, is because we’ve never lived anywhere near our extended family, and our extended family takes the attitude that we moved, not them, so visits are our obligation. (Conversely, I grew up close to my grandparents and cousins, and family gatherings were a regular thing, whether it was Sunday dinner with the grands or a weekend at Grandma’s with all the cousins.) In the meantime, I’m researching to quench my own thirst for knowledge…and trying to talk The Kiddo and The Hubby into getting me the Ancestry DNA test for my birthday.

      And yes, France is correct.

        • I’ve provided my family with the sale information, as well as the last day of the sale. They are either ignoring me or laughing behind my back because they’ve already ordered the kit. They are both quite adept at poker faces and keeping secrets, so I’ll just have to wait and see. (My birthday is in August, so I don’t have that much longer to wait.)

  2. {{{DoReMI}}} – thanks muchly for the double duty. (Wonder if the RWNJs would consider “deporting” the twittlers who only know “license plate” English? LOL) None of my ancestors immigrated in living memory – and the only one record I have (my mother’s mother’s father’s side of the family) got here just before the Revolution – in which he took part on the American side and for which was “paid” in property in the Carolinas.

    My sons however have a great grandfather on their father’s mother’s side who came from Sweden. By the time I met him, his English was pretty good – as good as any white body’s English in TX anyway. He managed to live a few years beyond the century mark so my older son “knew” him as a toddler. And their father’s mother’s mother was from Mexico. (She claimed to be French – granddaughter of a doctor who was part of the Napoleonic invasion – a story not supported by her daughter. But then Mary Ellen looked like her Swedish father and didn’t have a”whiteness” issue while Mimi’s dark eyes, black hair, and skin tones could have equally been peasant French or a more upper-class Mexican – and Mexicans did, and do, have a “whiteness” issue.) Both the boys knew her although I doubt my younger son remembers her.

    I gotta get back to work. {{{HUGS}}}

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