To discuss the issue of the political prosecution of the foreign born residing in the United States it is necessary to refer back to the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950's. This mass hysteria was promoted and sustained by the mainstream newspapers, television and radio. It was aimed at the labor unions, senior citizens, groups, and certain liberal grass roots organizations. But particularly, it is my opinion, the real target of this process was the labor unions.
President Truman led the process by mandating through his executive order that all government employees take a loyalty oath.
Loyalty or disloyalty is a very private matter because there is no way, with or without oaths, that the secrecy of one's inmost thoughts can be known. Therefore, it is obvious that the sole purpose of the loyalty oath was to intimidate people into suppressing their ideas on controversial issues.
Those who refused to conform were punished by loss of employment, by expulsion from their union or other organizations. The progressive leadership of these organizations, particularly the leadership of the unions, was purged, leaving the power in the hands of compromising, do-nothing bureaucrats.
The most vulnerable section of our population is the foreign born. They are the newcomers seeking a better life, or to avoid compulsory military service in their native land.
The reason they are exceptionally vulnerable is that immigration proceedings are held under civil not criminal law. The Bill of Rights does not extend to civil cases. Hence, the Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) had a field day during the McCarthy period.
A similar situation had existed just after World War I when the INS conducted what was known as the Palmer Raids. In the middle of the night thousands of foreign born were routed out of bed and without hearings they were loaded onto ships and returned to their native lands. There was very little resistance from the general public as little was known about what was going on.
Fortified by the passage over President Truman's veto in 1952 of the infamous Walter McCarran Act, the INS brought proceedings for either deportation or denaturalization against hundreds of foreign born.
However, in the 50's things were different. There was a great increase in the technology of communication. People did know what was going on and they sprung into action to protect the foreign born.
There were some 400 persons arrested on political charges and held for deportation. Fourteen of them were in California, Oregon and Washington, five in Washington.
One of the most noted person under attack was the president of the longshoremen's union, Australian-born Harry Bridges. The INS did not succeed in deporting him because almost the entire labor movement came to his defense.
The cannery workers, most of whom were Filipinos, were a special target of the INS. Their leaders fought corruption in their union and on the job. Among them were Ernesto Mangaoang, Chris Mensalvos, Ponce Torres, and others. They as well as many Mexican workers were continually harassed by the INS.
The gifted singer and actor, Paul Robeson, wrote in his book Here I stand: "Those who tell the world that racism in American life is merely a fading hangover from the past... cannot explain away the infamous Walter-McCarrlan Act...no decree of Nazi Germany was more foully racist than this American law. . . "
I was one who came under the gun of the INS. I was born in Canada and came to the United States in 1923. I was a member of the Communist Party during the Great Depression of the 30's. Thirteen years after I left the Party I was arrested and charged with trying to overthrow the government by force and violence. My friends bailed me out for $500.
I understand that bail is usually set so high that the bailee will not attempt to leave the country. They must have known that I was the last person who would want to leave the country. After you get home tonight just try to see the logic of that. But don't ask me to explain this during the question period.
There were others who were charged with trying to overthrow the government. Among them was James Crane, born in Ireland. He also was a member of the Communist Party.
Julius Blickfeldt, a Danish Farm boy, came to the United States to work on his uncle's farm near Seattle. He, too, was a member of the Communist Party.
Norwegian born Tora Rystad was never a Communist, but allegedly her husband was. This would seem to be a case of "guilt by association."
Boris Sasief escaped to the United States from Georgia in Russia to avoid military conscription. His "crime" was to work in a bookstore that carried Marxist and other political writers' books.
Gunnar Paulson, Swedish born house painter, and his Russian born wife, Clara, were the victims of the INS who sought to denaturalize them and then deport Gunnar to Sweden and Clara to Russia.
David Hyun was saved from deportation to South Korea where he would have faced certain death by the brutal dictatorship then in power.
Citizen groups were created to defend these deportees. Nationally, Abner Green, chairman of the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born, spent six months in prisoner for refusing to give the names of contributors to the Committee.
Very few of those arrested were ultimatly deported. Two in the West were Hamish McRay, who earned a precarious living after having been expelled from his carpenter's union, was sent to Canada. He was met at the border by a delegation from the Canadian carpenters' union, given a job and a place to live. He and his wife lived out their lives there in peace and comfort.
The other was Bill Mackie , who within two years after being deported was returned to his home and family by Congressional action.
Throughout all this legal turmoil in the courts the victims, almost all of whom were poor people, were represented by pro bono attorneys. Prominent among them were John Caughlan and C.T. Hatten. I was John's secretary for the last twenty years of my gainful employment. He was my pro bobo attorney. We still argue. I say I worked for John and he says he worked for me. Attorneys all over the country worked without, or with very little, pay.
Without these attorneys, all would have been deported. Deportation is another word for "exile." Shakespear's Romeo said "Be merciful, say, death,. For exile hath more terror in his look, much more than death; do not say "banishment." I agree with Romeo. It would be a bad trip.
I want to leave the past now (even though it is always with us) and examine what is going on today.
Today there are thousands of immigrants who are being prosecuted under the Immigration Reform Act passed by Congress in 1997. The critics say the new rules could tear apart families with legitimate claims to U.S. residency. Many immigrants in the Puget Sound area believe their lives and futures are hanging in the balance.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer of September 25, 1998, devoted more than a page to individual cases under the headline "Millions of families may be broken apart as the new immigration law kicks in.. Several case histories were given.
The article stated: "Pedro, a U.S. citizen, has two sons, 21 and 24, who support him. They live with him in a small two-bedroom apartment (in Seattle) where the sons are awaiting their green cards. Under old immigration laws they could stay in Seattle while waiting. Now, however, that provision ends. The two young men will be required to return to Mexico and wait for their permanent residence. There is no way they can support their father from Mexico. The wait could take years.
"A 50-year-old Chinese woman says she would rather die than return to Hong Kong.
"Cele Rodriquez with husband, Noel, and son, Francisco, is among 300,000 Central American refugees whose future will be in limbo unless Congress acts. Returning to Nicaragua without her family frightens Cela.
These are examples of what face thousands of immigrants under the new Immigration Reform Act.
Things happen fast in a vacillating Congress. Help may be forthcoming; but, then, maybe not. But for me, now a U.S. citizen, I am spared anxiety. I will never fail to be grateful to the many, many concerned citizens and pro bono lawyers who prevented my deportation to a country of strangers, and who made it possible that I am living here in the comfort of my family and friends.
(Last updated October 15, 1999)