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Ancestor Smancestor

The article posted by the New Yorker today was an interview with Jennifer Mendelsohn, which began researching the genealogy of know contestants of certain immigration laws. Her research dug back into the ancestry of her targets and points out what may be determined to be hypocrisy among the ideas of these people. 

Jennifer Mendelsohn, a freelance writer based in Baltimore, has a low tolerance for bad faith. Last summer, after Stephen Miller, the White House senior policy adviser, went on television to support a bill that would penalize immigrants who didn’t speak English, Mendelsohn took to Twitter. “Miller favors immigrants who speak English,” she began. “But the 1910 census shows his own great-grandmother couldn’t.” Her tweet, which included a photograph of a census document indicating that Miller’s ancestor spoke only Yiddish, went viral. “It’s hilarious how easy it is to find hypocrisy,” Mendelsohn said. “And I’m a scary-good sleuth.”

What this doesn't do is beat on that old tired drum that suggest that these policy makers and pundits are against immigrants or immigration, and that's a step in the right direction, however, what Jennifer has been trying to do is discredit the ideas behind these proposed changes by using another common  defense; Whataboutery, a defense  that most politicians resort to when they have no other argument. So, in true me fashion, I want to point out a couple of issues I took from this research and the conclusion it's  trying to project.

To begin, what should it matter what their ancestors did? If a distant relative killed a person and got away with it, does it negate an argument from a present relative that criminals should be jailed? To be a little more direct, Let's say Stephen Miller ( which I don't like much ) was aware that his great grandmother did not speak English; is it possible that this information and the difficulty that his relatives  may have faced because of their inability to communicate with the community create a reason for his opinions? Maybe?  In this case then , the research  was turned around on the researcher. 

The grandmother of the Iowa Republican congressman Steve King—who has said that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies”—arrived at Ellis Island as a child, in 1894. Mendelsohn discovered that the great-great-grandfather of the Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren—“Respect our laws and we welcome you. If not, bye”—had been indicted for forging citizenship papers, in 1917. A Swiss ancestor of Lahren’s colleague Tucker Carlson—“Why does America benefit from having tons of people from failing countries come here?”—came to America looking for work, in 1860.

Are we supposed to ignore the populations and laws of yesteryear when considering the possible hypocrisy that this research is supposed to suggest?  The United States had a population of 23.1 million in 1850, where as current populations in the United States are 323.1 million, A difference of 300 million. Regardless of what the laws looked like 168 years ago, one can confer that immigration of any kind back then wasn't considered as drastic as it may be now, 

The United States Census of 1850 was the seventh census of the United States. Conducted by the Census Office on June 1,1850, it determined the resident population of the United States to be 23,191,876—an increase of 35.9 percent over the 17,069,453 persons enumerated during the 1840 Census.

and this suggestion is backed by the fact that prior to 1885, there really wasn't any kind of immigration laws.  This is 133 years ago, meaning Great Grandparents for most of us in our late 30s and 40s. So, if , in fact the ancestors of the people that are targeted in this research really came here through chain migration, who cares? Legislators didn't. There was no laws for it, however , when this type of immigration started becoming a problem in 1885 and  because of a weakening economy, immigration laws started to be created. 

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Alien Contract Labor laws of 1885 and 1887 prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States. The general Immigration Act of 1882 levied a head tax of fifty cents on each immigrant and blocked (or excluded) the entry of idiots, lunatics, convicts, and persons likely to become a public charge.​

There are way too many variables that can also be included into this  conversation but the main point is that despite any variables that are included in the situations of these ancestors, they are completely besides the point, but even if these distant relatives took advantage of certain laws or even broke them  to get to the United States  or stay in the United States,  this will only reinforce the argument why some people believe those laws should be amended?

There is , at least , room for discussion about all this but for the most part, I think the reasoning for the research and the possible point that is trying to be made has a logic flaw. Any ancestors  that did anything a hundred or more years ago , which the current relative probably has absolutely no knowledge of, should not negate any arguments of today. Different times, different place. It also, in no way, make those who are challenging immigration policy hypocrites. At best, it offers a bit of insight, though it may also justify their stance. 

My belief is that this research is an attempt to be a "gotcha" to these pundits and legislators,  but I think once given more consideration, it becomes very one dimensional thinking when considering how far back in time one has to go to arrive at these outcomes. I'm also wondering if Jennifer would be expected to change her ideals on revelation her ancestors followed a different ideology. 

It was suggested that what this research is really  attempting is Ancestor  Doxing , which Ms. Mendelsohn denied and called Journalism. Personally, I think both are true. 

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