One of the best recurring experiences of my first stint in private practice (prior to my appointment as an immigration judge in 1995) would begin with my answering the phone and hearing “Jeff, buddy, Abe Rosenthal!” A.M. Rosenthal was one of the biggest names in journalism. A Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent, Abe then became the long-time editor of the New York Times. He courageously pushed to publish the Pentagon Papers over the objection of the Nixon administration, which led to a landmark Supreme Court decision protecting freedom of the press. He also oversaw the paper’s coverage of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Abe heard me speak at a press briefing on asylum in the early 1990s, and would call from time to time to discuss an immigration column he was working on.
Abe once told me that many would ask him why he was so conservative in his views on other topics (an opinion that Abe himself disputed) but was so liberal in his views on immigration? He explained as follows: he was born in Canada; his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was a child. He added that his family’s reason for coming to the U.S. was entirely economic: he therefore saw nothing wrong with immigrants coming to this country solely in search of better wages. When Abe was 18 (which would have been around 1940), he went to enlist in the Army; as was normal procedure, he was asked for his proof of citizenship. When he went home to ask his mother for his citizenship papers, her face took on a strange expression; she then explained to him that he had no legal status in the U.S. Abe said that this was a traumatic experience; he had always thought he was American. He added that back in that time, the authorities were very understanding about this issue, and he was able to obtain U.S. citizenship quickly and easily. But the experience forever shaped his views on immigration.
Abe passed away in 2006, but I thought of his story on Tuesday not long after hearing the depressing, infuriating announcement by our nation’s supposed defender of justice, revoking the legal status that President Obama had through executive order bestowed on some 800,000 youths who, like the late Abe Rosenthal, possessed all that it means to be American with the exception of a citizenship paper. Many others have by now responded to the termination of DACA far more eloquently, emotionally, and intelligently than I could do. I therefore simply wish that A.M. Rosenthal, a Dreamer some 70 years ahead of his time, were still around to write one more column from his heart in response to the sickening injustice that just befell 800,000 of our own youth and our nation’s future.
Copyright 2017 Jeffrey S. Chase. All rights reserved.