• Katlyn Roberts

Immigration in the U.S. Hasn't Changed in 100 Years

Updated: Jan 28

And I've got the freaky historical evidence to prove it.


Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Come along, dear reader, on a racist, xenophobic, antisemitic journey through time.


We’ll start slow by only going back a year, when former Chief of Staff John Kelly said a whole lotta nonsense in his May, 2018 interview with NPR. Try not to barf.


“Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into the United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS13. … But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. … They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. … The big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States, and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”


Fuck right off, John Kelly.


Now take a look at this letter from 1912 which quotes the Commissioner of Immigration for the Port of New York (Ellis Island) — a mister William Williams Esq.


You’ll notice that it’s a photocopy of the original letter and if you’re reading on a phone, I apologize for the small print. I guess I figured zooming in was a small price to pay for getting to read a super old, lost-to-history letter like you’re freaking Nancy Drew. So get your pinching fingers out and pretend they’re your magnifying glass.


It may also help if you read these sections with the voice of Tom Hanks or Morgan Freeman in your head — as though this was a Ken Burns documentary and Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” is playing on repeat in the background.



Did you read it? I hope you read it. There’s going to be more.


William Williams Esq. may be talking about Eastern European Jews while John Kelly is talking about anyone with a brown face, but the sentiment is exactly — and I mean exactly — the same.

Let me give you some background as to how this incredible letter was brought to my attention and then I’ll go into the rest of it, ok?


Immigrating AWAY from the U.S.?


My mom recently got it into her head that my dad and I may be eligible for Romanian citizenship and therefore EU citizenship. I don’t know what could have possibly caused her to start imagining alternative options to living in the US…


(Pretend there’s a picture of Trump here. I can’t stomach the google image search.)


It turns out Romania’s pretty lax on their citizenship laws. All you need is a grandparent who was born there and you (and all your children) are in. According to an undercover investigation by EU Observer, even if you don’t have a grandparent who was born there, you can buy your citizenship pretty easily through back-channels for as little as €1,500. Ever since Romania joined the EU in 2007, there’s been an influx of new applicants from all over the world. The rest of the EU has tried to hint that Romania should cool it a bit on welcoming their lost kin back into the club, but Transylvania don’t give a bat’s ass.


For the record, I have a great-grandparent who is, indeed, from Romania. No backchannels necessary because my mom, Baby Boomer Hermione Granger, has decided that if my paternal great-grandfather’s birth certificate is out there, she’s going to find it.


She hasn’t found the birth certificate yet. What she DID find while sifting through the National Archives is so much better.


Educating the President:


My mother’s attempt to immigrate away from the country my great-grandfather immigrated to, just shy of a century ago, caused her to stumble upon this letter, penned in 1912, by a neighborhood of immigrants to the President of the United States, William H. Taft. The contents of the letter sent chills down her spine and she sent it to me via email with the subject line:


“This is so eerie. History repeats itself.”


(To read the rest of this article, check it out where it was originally published in Dialogue and Discourse.)

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