As one of those Ellis Island families, dear Alexandria…


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AKA Occasional Cortex, She Guevara, Chiquita Khrushchev) really does embody all the worst characteristics of the Millennials without any of the generation’s redeeming qualities, as if in some dark basement lab in Bronx a latter day Dr Frankenstein has toiled days and nights to put together a monster using bits and pieces of social media; mix arrogance with ignorance, throw in passion and sanctimony, sprinkle with the lack of self-awareness – and voila!

AOC’s latest 140-character contribution to impoverishing the political debate in the United State continues her deep interest in immigration:

Now, I sometimes feel reluctant, as a foreigner, to stick my nose in another country’s debates (just kidding!) but this time I am one of those families that AOC is talking about – and she would no doubt describe my views as a “fervent anti-immigrant stance” (with which I would strongly disagree, by the way). So permit me to comment.

For starters there is no rich irony here. If there was, Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow socialists would have taxed it heavily to redistribute it among the other 99% who don’t get it. Or maybe they did, which is why the only rich thing about this tweet is its ignorance of law and history. But then I suspect that this is not the case either, or at least not predominantly: the fact that the left continually conflates legal and illegal immigration and refugees and economic migrants,is a conscious tactic rather than evidence that AOC has slept through most of high school and college (though that’s quite likely in any case).

My great-grandfather had waked down the ship’s plank at Ellis Island sometime around 1908, seeking a fresh start after apparently having squandered his inheritance in his home town of Stanislawow in what was then the Austrian Galicia but what used to be eastern Poland and what is now western Ukraine. The surname Chrenkoff is in fact the kind contribution by the US immigration authorities to my family history, so much so that we don’t unfortunately know anymore what the original Polish-Ukrainian spelling might have been (Hrynkow? if you have any ideas let me know and you’ll win Internet for a day). The great-grandfather then ended up in Chicago, as so many other Poles around that time did, met and married my great-grandmother, fathered my grandfather and managed to die in shady circumstance (as many others in Chicago around that time did – and still, unfortunately, do), all in a space of four or so years. My great-grandmother either felt scared or lonely or homesick or all of the above and returned with my 2-year old grandfather back to Poland (which still wasn’t Poland yet until a few years later, in 1918). That’s how I came to be eventually born in Poland with an American-spelled surname, which continues to provide the endless amusement to everyone trying to spell and/or pronounce it. But then again so would have the original name, so no hard feeling the 1900s-era ICE.

The point about it all, however, is this: everyone, including my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother, who had ever arrived at Ellis Island did so legally. They all followed the immigration laws of the land and presented themselves to American immigration authorities for screening. The millions who did so over the decades have come for a variety of reasons – some might have indeed been “escaping some horror”, but an overwhelming majority were coming to the United States simply to find work, opportunities and a better life. In a sense the horror many of them were escaping, if it can be called that, was the deep rural and urban poverty of Ireland, southern Italy, the Austro-Hungary and the Russian empire with their backward economies and lack of social mobility (often accompanied by a dose of religious, ethnic or political persecution). Coincidentally, none of them “snuck onto a boat”; they all saved and paid or had relatives and friends (often already in America) pay for their ticket. Of the 12 million people who passed through Ellis Island, about 20 per cent were temporarily detained, mostly for health or legal reasons, but in the end only 2 per cent were denied entry and packed on ships back to Europe. From the selection point of view, the immigration policy might have been more liberal then – the economy, after all, needed plenty of able bodies – but it was all conducted in accordance with the laws of the day.

That’s why that 12 million (minus 2 per cent) as well that all the others who have arrived into the United States through other legal points of entry cannot be confused with the millions – quite possibly, and coincidentally, also around 12 million – who have in recent years illegally (i.e. outside of the border check-points and without the necessary interaction with the immigration system) crossed, or tried to cross, the American borders – primarily the one with Mexico and to a lesser extent with Canada (and to a lesser extent still landing by boat on the American shore). Some of them probably are refugees as defined by international law, but most aren’t; coming from a busted-ass, corrupt and violent society does not automatically make you a refugee, as the left seems to imply. In any case, if you claim you are a refugee, the first thing you do is contact the immigration authorities to initiate your asylum case; you don’t try to cross the Arizona desert at night after having paid a people smuggler.

As even the Dalai Lama understands, there are tens of millions of displaced people around the world already, not to mention hundreds of millions who would gladly swap their current shit lives for a chance to make it in America (or Western Europe for that matter), but the developed world cannot simply take them all. That’s why it’s important that there are rules in place and they are followed so that immigration is conducted and managed in an orderly manner.

AOC probably day-dreams of being the latter day Statue of Liberty, shining her torch as she invites the tired and the poor and those yearning to be gardeners and nannies for the rich Democrat voters in California to come to America from all the teeming shores of the world. The point about the Statue of Liberty, however, is that she stood at the border crossing, not as a lighthouse to Mexican coyotes, and definitely not as a monument to the “open borders” world that the left wants to impose on the West.