Letter: Look where you came from before disrespecting others


Editor of the Reformer,

I would like to thank columnist Richard Davis ("We Need to Respect Our Roots," Thursday, Jan. 3) for highlighting the need to value history, especially our own family histories and the stories of their lives that we may have missed for not asking questions while they were still alive.

Many of us children of immigrants regret that we did not ask more questions of our parents and grandparents. We may not even know the village where our ancestors were born or how and why they decided to leave their families, communities, and travel thousands of miles on a ship, to a country where an uncertain future awaited them.

It might behoove some public policy makers to understand their own past before they speak out against current-day immigrants coming to this country. As Richard states, "It would seem obvious to most of us that too many American leaders do not respect the history of a country that is mostly comprised of immigrants and descendants of immigrants. "

Jennifer Mendelsohn is a genealogist who plies her trade on Twitter and uses publicly available genealogical resources, such as US Census records, immigration records, ship manifests, newspaper articles, and the like, to exhume the records of the ancestors of various Trump administration officials who have no knowledge of where they came from and provides them with a history — all documented — of their own immigrant ancestors' life stories.

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Take for instance the 33-year-old political adviser to Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, the great-grandson of a Lithuanian immigrant who came to the United States as a product of chain migration, one of the pejorative terms that some Trump advisers use to define current immigrants. Miller also has taken to criticizing immigrants who won't learn English after they arrive in this country. Miller's great-grandmother arrived in the United States in 1894 and was listed 16 years later on the 1910 US Census as a non-English speaker.

Dan Scavino, Trump's director of social media, tweeted out last year that chain migration was "choking" the United States. Scavino's own great grandfather, Gildo, was born in Italy and came to the United States in 1913, following the trails of his two older brothers, Vittorio and Ettore. After Scavino's tweet, Mendelsohn researched his family and followed with her own comment: "So, Dan. Let's say Victor Scavino arrives from Canelli, Italy in 1904, then brother Hector in 1905, brother Gildo in 1912, sister Esther in 1913, and sister Clotilde and their father Giuseppe in 1916, and they live together in NY. Do you think that would count as chain migration?"

Cicero Tutullus, the Roman orator and philosopher, reminds us to be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of infantile behavior going on in the White House these days.

Jerry Carbone

Brattleboro, Jan. 6


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