A man called John Francis Kelly in American complaining about immigrants!? "Today’s huddled masses are somehow soiling the paradise your wealthy grandparents helped build."
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly defended the Trump administration’s immigration policies last week by saying that it is a really big problem that today’s undocumented immigrants are, among other things, “overwhelmingly rural people.”
It’s a safe bet that Kelly doesn’t see the irony here, so let’s help him out a bit. A guy with a name like John Francis Kelly complaining about immigrants from rural areas is a little bit like a guy named Tony Macaroni complaining about immigrants coming from a country that likes pasta too much.
It’s like a guy named Fritz Hitler complaining about immigrants coming from places that are little too hung up on orderliness.
Kelly might as well have complained that too many of today’s immigrants come from nations where it rains too much. Or nations with an excessive fondness for Guinness.
In other words, someone needs to remind John Francis Kelly that the Irish, too, were “overwhelmingly rural people.” For centuries, they somehow made the transition. And yet, suddenly, this is a problem.
This is just the latest bout of immigrant amnesia to strike an Irish American. It is unfortunately a common ailment.
Some Irish Americans see absolutely no problem celebrating their own immigrant roots one moment, only to gripe about immigrants today, as if there is no kind of connection whatsoever.
Which is not to say Kelly had only negative things to say about immigrants. Let’s even give him credit for going onto NPR -- NPR! -- to talk about the subject in the first place.
"The vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They're not criminals. They're not MS-13," Kelly said on the NPR program Morning Edition.
Well, isn’t that a nice thing to say?
But then again, let’s take what we can get. After all, quite a few Trump people would have you believe that every immigrant today is, in fact, a potential MS-13 machete wielder.
But after he was done with these niceties, Kelly broke out the nasty.
Not only are many newcomers today undocumented, “they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They're overwhelmingly rural people," said Kelly.
And so we get the recycled myth that yesterday’s immigrants and their children were so well behaved, and just wanted to fit in.
Kelly might want to chat with that other Trump guy who was in the news this week: Rudy Giuliani.
Rudy, of course, also comes from immigrant roots. Having signed on to serve Trump, Rudy -- like Kelly -- spouts the party line. That today’s immigrants are just a whole lot more trouble than yesterday’s.
Perhaps this is understandable. After all, perhaps you read in The New York Times about the child of immigrants who “pulled a gun on a milkman in a Manhattan building, robbed him of $128.82, and gave a false name to the police when he was arrested.”
The Times also noted that several members of this extended family “were involved in organized crime.”
MS-13? Not quite. We are speaking here of Giuliani’s own father Harold.
Does that mean we should have built a wall 100 years ago? Never should have let Giuliani’s grandfather into America?
Never should have let John Kelly’s grandparents into the U.S., because they came from some hardscrabble farm or depressed village?
You know what? It’s fine if we debate better and worse ways to organize our immigration system. But only if the likes of Kelly and Giuliani do away with the selective amnesia, which is another term for hypocrisy.
Don’t pretend you come from some kind of royalty, and that today’s huddled masses are somehow soiling the paradise your wealthy grandparents helped build.
One hundred years ago, just like now, there were powerful anti-immigrant forces looking to build a wall.
Kelly and Giuliani are literally lucky to be in America.
It’s just something the rest of us have to live with.