Friday, May 29, 2015

A brief history of immigration discrimination in the United States

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddle masses yearning to be breathe free” 

The famous quote from Emma Lazarus is often used to describe America, the land of freedom and opportunity. However, that opportunity only applied if you were White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (aka WASP). Everyone is familiar with the discrimination and horrors that African Americans suffered as slaves and as citizens. And the atrocities that the US government inflicted on the Native Americans. Also, the internment of law-abiding Japanese-American citizens during World War II. These weren’t the only groups to be discriminated against. The Scot-Irish, Italians, Jewish and more recently Middle Easterners have suffered their share of discrimination too. Unfortunately, discrimination against immigrants has been a long standing practice in the United States. Every immigrant has met with discrimination in some form when coming to America and the immigration debate is nothing new in the United States.

In 1790, the United States was an infant. A new country with a new Constitution trying to establish itself as a country to be recognized among the nations. The Naturalization Act of 1790 was passed restricting citizenship to free Whites. In 1848, after the Mexican-American War, Congress refused to pass Article X of the Treaty of Guadalupe which promised citizenship to Mexicans who decided to stay in newly acquired American territories. Instead, it required Mexicans to prove in court, with a lawyer and in English that they has legitimate claims to their lands. In 1850, California passed the Foreign Miners Tax which imposed a special tax on the holdings of Chinese and Latin American miners. In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which allowed US citizens to claim land in new territories; however, it barred Native Americans, Blacks, and any Non-European immigrant. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese immigration for 10 years and later banned in 1902. A ban which not be lifted until 1943.

Most of the immigration practices came into effect after the 20th century when the world opened up for many countries and they flooded to the U.S. The Immigration Act of 1924 closed the door on immigrants for Southern and Eastern Europeans while allowing immigrants from Britain, Ireland and other Northern Europe. Between 1930-1940, 600,000 Mexican Americans were deported. Many were legal citizens and in 1935, California passed a law which declared Mexicans as “foreign born Indians.” The US government would implement the Bracero Program which allowed Mexicans to come to the US for temporary work during the labor shortage in the war period. When the program officially ended in the 1960s, many Mexicans went home never being paid their promised wages. By 1952, immigration laws began to relax some restrictions but imposed new ones, such as a quota of immigrants from each nation and introduced guidelines for refugees. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act criminalized employment of undocumented workers and by 1990, placed sanctions for employers who knowingly hired workers without the proper papers. I remember in 1994, my freshman year of high school, there was a major walk-out in protest of Proposition 187. Prop 187 set to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibited illegal immigrants from using health care, public education and other services in California. The proposition passed but was later found to be unconstitutional by a federal court.

The current debate is nothing new. The debate between restricting immigration to an open-door policy. What I find interesting is that two stereotypes still fuel the immigration debate. First, that immigrants are the cause of our societal problems. They take our jobs, they commit the majority of the crimes and they are just here for the benefits are often used as reasons for restricting immigration. With every stereotype there is a grain of truth; however, it is not true for all immigrants. Most immigrants take the jobs that majority of us wouldn’t take even if we were desperate. Most immigrants are as law abiding as citizens. And the benefits? Sure many immigrants may come here for the better health care but how hypocritical when many citizens will go to other countries to get surgeries and medicine that they can’t get here. Second, the modern day immigrants are nothing like the old immigrants. They weren’t here illegally, they were good, hard-working people and became good citizens. People don’t realize that majority of immigration laws weren’t in effect when most of our ancestors came to this country. And many of the immigrants who do come to this country illegally do become legal citizens. People forget that the United States is a country built by immigrants from the colonists in 1620 to 20th century business entrepreneurs. The following iconic businesses were founded by immigrants:
Google: Sergry Brin from Russia
AT&T: Alexander Graham Bell from Scotland
Goldman Sachs: Marcus Goldman from Germany
Kohl’s: Maxwell Kohl from Poland
Big Lots: Sol Shenk from Russia
Goya Foods: Prudencio and Carolina Unanue from Spain
Yahoo!: Jerry Yang from Taiwan
And countless mom-n- pop shops and restaurants that we enjoy every day.

What’s my point? My point is that the people of the United States have struggled with immigration since the beginning and discrimination often fueled the immigration laws. The immigration debate is very complicated and has deep roots that will take a long time to untangle. There are no simple solutions and I can’t begin to offer a solution. It is a situation when a compromise needs to be met in a country which no longer wants to cooperate with each other. A quote from a character on a NCIS episode once observed “Short memories. That is the impression I have of you as a people.” We, as citizens of the US, have short memories. How soon we forget with time and how we forget the lessons of the past. In order to move forward, we need to look back and strive not to repeat the mistakes of the past. We must find solutions which allows those who want to come to America to build a new life are able to. Just as our ancestors did. We need to stand by the words which are proudly displayed on the Statue of Liberty.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Another great addition in the Captain No Beard series

Captain No Beard: A Flag for the Flying Dragon by Carole P. Roman is another great addition to the Captain No Beard series. Everyone is busy working at their various jobs on the ship. But baby Zachary doesn’t have a job to do and no one wants him to help with his/her job. Captain No Beard must find a solution. He realizes that the ship doesn’t have a flag and he grabs a piece of cloth and makes Zachary keeper of the flag. Now, everyone has an important job on the Flying Dragon.

A Flag for the Flying Dragon is another great addition to the Captain No Beard series. I love that this story teaches the very important lesson of working together with everyone’s job is just as important as another. I highly recommend this book and the rest of the series for any family and classroom library.

Captain No Beard: A Flag for the Flying Dragon
Is available on Amazon
For free on the Kindle Unlimited

And in paperback for $10.99

Friday, May 22, 2015

Carrie Fisher: more than just Princess Leia

Carrie Fisher is best known as Princess Leia from a little film called Star Wars. But did you know that she is also an accomplished novelist, screenwriter and mental health advocate. Recently, I can able to get a few of her books and I will review them briefly.

Postcards from the Edge is her best known book as it was also made into a blockbuster film which starred Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine. It is the story of Suzanne Vale, an actress from an acting family who finds herself in a rehab facility after overdosing on Percodan. As she completes rehab, she must find a way to restart her life that she says “I narrate a life I’m reluctant to live.” This story was inspired by Ms. Fisher’s own struggles with her drug addiction and recovery. The story explores the question who someone is and why he/she does or doesn’t do things. It had some great insights that caught my attention. 

Wishing Drinking is her first memoir was she explores her life was it was entangled in the greatest scandal of Hollywood. Her childhood began as the child of America’s Sweethearts: Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Her playgrounds were studios and backlots. She discusses her highs as her brief relationship and marriage to Paul Simon. When she writes about him, you can tell she really loved him but it just didn’t work out. And her lows as life with a philandering father and her growing drug addiction. She discusses the events which lead to her diagnosis of manic-depression. She has learned to deal with the manic episodes which leads her on a “wild ride of a mood” and the depression which leads her to “piss and moan.”  I love that Ms. Fisher is very candid and doesn’t mince words. She says it as she sees it.

The Best Awful There Is is the sequel to Postcards from the Edge as Suzanne Vale must deal with the revelation that the father of her child as left her for another man. She must pick of the pieces and learn to live with new situation. It soon becomes too much and she is institutionalized as manic-depressed. Ms. Fisher once again draws inspiration from her own experiences and brings a touching and sometimes hilarious fashion.

Shockaholic is her second memoir in which she discusses her life in recovery, her continuing struggles with sobriety due to her bipolar disorder and the reconciliation with her father near the end of his life. She calls herself a “fairly intelligent person who does stupid things. Incredibly stupid things.” She is brutally honest and pokes fun at her Hollywood pedigree.

I love Ms. Fisher’s brutal honesty and while her humor is a little too vulgar for my tastes, I did find some of her comments hilarious. I also found her to be deeply insightful and gives such an honest look of what life is often like with a mental illness. She often poked fun at the comments about her looks since everyone expects her to look like Princess Leia even at the age of 58. I think she is still very beautiful and looks wonderful. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Nibelungen Hoard: Treasure of legend and Cold War spies

Sometimes the treasures of legend lend themselves to appear in real life. The Nibelungen Hoard by Edwin M. Todd is a mystery surrounding a treasure which disappeared in the final months of World War II as certain German officials realized that the war was ending and they were on the losing side.

The story opens with the legend of the Nibelungen Hoard with King Siegfried of the Netherlands as he attacked and conquered the land of Nibelung. There he accumulated a great treasure which he gave to his new bride, Kreimhilde of Burgundy and the king is killed and the treasure goes missing. It is said that “Whoever possesses the Nibelungen hoard shall be called the Nibelungers and that the cursed treasure waits patiently to reappear.” Fast forward to Beelitz, East Germany, November 4, 1989 where an old woman waits for her grandson, Christopher. She must give him an important task, a task that she wasn’t able to fulfill. Her last words as she hands him the family Bible, are “Find. Give.” Rewind a little bit to March 1945, as Lena Mueller, a nurse at a field hospital takes care of a young soldier who mysteriously appears. The soldier’s name is Johann von Ritter, who was tasked by Himmler to hide treasure as Himmler sees the signs that Germany is losing the war and intends to run as the Allies are closing in. However, von Ritter does not do as Himmler instructs and he hides the treasure and leaves clues to its whereabouts in two letters: one to his sister and another he entrusts with Lena. Fast forward again to 1989, Christopher must decipher his grandmother’s wishes as the cold war spies from Germany, Russia and America are searching for the letters and to discover the location of the treasure. Who can he trust? And will the treasure be found?

I enjoyed this thrilling mystery of the end of the Cold War with its twists and turns. While I can’t say if the treasure is found, I will say the ending left me wondering what other mysteries this story will bring. I hope the author intends to write a sequel (if he hasn’t already) and give more to this great mystery. If you enjoy mystery thrillers, I highly recommend The Nibelungen Hoard.

The Nibelungen Hoard is available on
Amazon on the Kindle Unlimited for free and

on paperback for $13

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

From Afar: a different kind of love story

The search for love is the eternal struggle that has plagued the world for generations. From Afar by Frank Scozzari takes a look at the modern day search for love with online dating sites and international searches.

The story opens with a man, Morgan, who is looking for love. He has tried all the dating sites and on a whim, he tries a Russian bride site. He finds Natasha and “falls in love” and when he contacts her, she politely declines because she has already found someone. He then finds someone else and is determined to go to Russia and meet her. All his friends thinks he’s crazy and warn him about the dangers and scams that these sites can hide but he is determined to find love, even if he has to travel thousands of miles. When he arrives in Russia, nothing is to his expectations. He learns that foreigners get charged one price while locals get charged another. He travels around the city of Moscow and learns about the beautiful and tragic history of the Russian people. He meets Anastasia, who is only after his money, thinking that all Americans are rich like on TV. He becomes discouraged until he meets an older married couple who like to discuss the works of Alexander Pushkin who discusses the eternal struggle of love. Will Morgan ever find love?

I enjoyed this book immensely. I enjoyed the setting and the contradiction that is Russia. As the author puts it: a conundrum of love and war, friendly and unfriendly, warm and cold, laughter and tears, the hero and the villain. I enjoyed that this story wasn’t a typical romance story where man travels of miles, falls in love and they live happily after. From Afar leaves the audience with thought provoking ideas about love and how the world sees love. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to read a great and atypical love story.

From Afar by Frank Scozzari
is available on Amazon for
free on the Kindle Unlimited
and $15.99 in paperback

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Dovekeepers: a story of Masada through the eyes of four extraordinary women

A week ago, CBS aired The Dovekeepers starring Cote de Pablo, former NCIS star. The story is based on Alice Hoffman’s book the Dovekeepers which featured events around the Sicarii rebels and their families taking of Masada, a desert fortress and the Roman siege which led to the mass suicide of the Jewish community. I was disappointed in the mini-series, I was intrigued by the story and wanted to read the book. The book features the perspective of four women: Yael, the assassin’s daughter, Revka, the baker’s wife, Aziza, a warrior woman and Shirah, the witch of Moab. All four women work in the dovecotes of Masada and each woman gives a story of how she came to Masada and the events leading to the siege in 73/74 C.E.

The story opens in the summer of 70 C.E. and the destruction of the second Temple and the exodus of the Jewish from Jerusalem. Yael is a woman who learned to be invisible as the daughter of a Sicarii, a secret group of assassins. She and her father flee from Jerusalem into the desert and toward Masada, a fortress whispered about. Masada was a fortress which the Romans cannot reach and has the protection of God. Revka arrives in Masada, heartbroken as her only daughter was killed by Romans. He grandsons have lost their voice due to what they have seen and her son-in-law, lost in his grief as vowed silence. Aziza is a woman who once lived as a boy and became a warrior for her mother feared her fate as a woman. She struggles between two desires. Shirah, mother of Aziza, whispered to be a witch. She knows ancient tricks for healing and reads signs blessings or curses. Through her eyewitness, the siege occurs and she tries to save the ones she loves. The book ends in Alexandria 77 C.E., two women and five children have survived. Who survived to tell the tale of Masada?

I enjoyed this book much more than I did the mini-series. As with any adaptation, the mini-series took a great deal out and twisted events around for dramatic purposes. The book was intriguing to see how the community built a life in Masada for so long and how long they fought against a power they despised. I also enjoyed seeing these women struggle with the same things we today struggle with when bound by rules or situations that may seem unfair. To see some women rise above it while others simply fall in line. I recommend The Dovekeepers