Special to the Mirror by Paul Plante.
As a Viet Nam combat veteran, in many ways, I feel like an immigrant to this country, myself, despite the fact that I was actually born here.
In January of 1970, I was loaded on a plane at Bien Hoa airport in Viet Nam, for my journey to what then was called “the world,” and what a strange and hostile world it was to turn out to be.
I knew that I was in Viet Nam, of course, because a lot of smallish, brown-skinned people who called themselves Vietnamese, and had so for the last thousand years or better, told me they wanted me out of their country, because my kind did not belong there.
The same thing happened when I got off that plane back here, wherever “here” actually is.
We landed at some Air Force base out in California somewhere near San Francisco, where I had never been before, and the first thing I noticed was that when we got off the plane, there were buses waiting for us with ballistic chicken wire covering all the windows, just like the buses were in Viet Nam.
Silly me, I thought it was a bus sent back from Viet Nam, and they just hadn’t gotten around to taking the ballistic chicken wire from off the windows.
When I mentioned that to the driver, a civilian, he looked at me like I was some kind of fool, and he said, “boy, you been gone a long time, haven’t you!”
The ballistic chicken wire was to protect us from Americans throwing things through the windows at us, not Vietnamese trying to lob a hand grenade through the window.
When we got into San Francisco, at some armory I think it was, the bus literally pulled up on the sidewalk so when we got off the bus, the door to the armory was right in front of us, and we were hustled right in.
Inside, we were told not to go back outside in uniform, lest the mob descend on us and tear us apart.
The next day, after I was outprocessed, a taxi took me to the airport, whether Oakland or San Francisco, I’m not sure, since at that time I didn’t know there was a choice, and so I just told the taxi driver, “take me to the airprort.”
When I went it, it gave me the feeling of being a Christian entering into the floor of the Coliseum in Rome to be torn apart by lions for the amusement of the mob.
The corridor down which I had to go to get to my plane was lined on both sides with screeching, hollering, angry people spitting at us, and generally letting us know, like the Vietnamese had been doing, that our kind were not welcome here, nor wanted here, notwithstanding this happened to be where I was born.
And in many ways, I and other Viet Nam combat veterans have been treated as second-class citizens here, perhaps a step down from immigrants in some respects, ever since.
So when I read in the 2016 Democratic Party Platform July 21, 2016 As Approved by the Democratic Platform Committee July 8-9, 2016 – Orlando, FL., which Hillary Clinton claimed in The Hill was the “most progressive platform in history,” in the section “Fixing our Broken Immigration System” that “The United States was founded as, and continues to be, a country of immigrants from throughout the world,” in many ways, I felt I was one of them.
When I further read, “It is no coincidence that the Statue of Liberty is one of our most profound national symbols,” I had to ask myself, of what?
To a Viet Nam combat veteran, what is the Statue of Liberty a “profound national symbol” of, given that to the Vietnamese, we were foreign oppressors far worse than the French before us, precisely because we would not tolerate being done to us in this country what we were doing to the Vietnamese in theirs?
According to Wikipedia, the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, in the United States.
The copper statue, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, and was dedicated on October 28, 1886.
The Statue of Liberty is a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess, and she holds a torch above her head, and in her left arm carries a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) inscribed “July 4, 1776”, the date of the American Declaration of Independence.
A broken chain lies at her feet.
The statue became an icon of freedom and of the United States, and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad.
According to the National Park Service, the idea for the Statue of Liberty was first proposed by Édouard René de Laboulaye, the president of the French Anti-Slavery Society and a prominent and important political thinker of his time, and the project is traced to a mid-1865 conversation between Édouard René de Laboulaye, a staunch abolitionist and Frédéric Bartholdi, a sculptor. In after-dinner conversation at his home near Versailles.
Laboulaye, an ardent supporter of the Union in the American Civil War, is supposed to have said: “If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort—a common work of both our nations.”
In another essay on their website, the Park Service suggested that Laboulaye was minded to honor the Union victory and its consequences, “With the abolition of slavery and the Union’s victory in the Civil War in 1865, Laboulaye’s wishes of freedom and democracy were turning into a reality in the United States.”
“In order to honor these achievements, Laboulaye proposed that a gift be built for the United States on behalf of France.”
“Laboulaye hoped that by calling attention to the recent achievements of the United States, the French people would be inspired to call for their own democracy in the face of a repressive monarchy.”
So there is the Statue of Liberty, people, and while it might be a symbol to immigrants according to Hillary Clinton and her Democrats, who can invent American history on the fly to satisfy their political needs of the moment, in reality, it is a symbol to something else entirely – standing up to oppressive monarchy – a point the Vietnamese, who knew our political history better than most Americans, were well aware of, as they fought against the political repression we had brought to their country at the point of a bayonet, just like the Red Coats of English king George III tried to bring here back when.
The reality, people, is that in this nation, like returning Viet Nam veterans, immigrants have not always been welcome in this nation, and from the beginning, the subject of immigration has been a political football to be kicked around by the warring and feuding political factions in this country, to either benefit themselves, as the Democrats are now doing with respect to immigrants and immigration in their 2016 Party Manifesto, where they say,” We reject attempts to impose a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees from entering the United States, it is un-American and runs counter to the founding principles of this country,” which history shows to be totally untrue, and “Finally, Democrats will not stand for the divisive and derogatory language of Donald Trump, his offensive comments about immigrants and other communities have no place in our society, this kind of rhetoric must be rejected,” or to hurt the other faction, which takes us back to the beginning days of this country and the Alien and Sedition Acts and the anti-immigrant rhetoric that flourished in America back then in 1798, twenty-two (22) after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and eighty-eight (88) years before the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.
The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed by the Federalist-dominated 5th United States Congress and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, and they made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen (Naturalization Act), as well as allowing the president to imprison and deport non-citizens who were deemed dangerous (Alien Friends Act of 1798) or who were from a hostile nation (Alien Enemy Act of 1798), and they criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government (Sedition Act of 1798).
The Federalists argued that the bills strengthened national security during an undeclared naval war with France.
The Alien Friends Act allowed the president to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” at any time, while the Alien Enemies Act authorized the president to do the same to any male citizen of a hostile nation above the age of fourteen during times of war, and The Alien Enemies Act remains in effect as Sections 21–24 of Title 50 of the United States Code.
According to the U.S. History.org website, clearly, the Federalists who were in charge of the federal government in 1798 saw foreigners as a deep threat to American security.
As one Federalist in Congress declared, there was no need to “invite hordes of Wild Irishmen, nor the turbulent and disorderly of all the world, to come here with a basic view to distract our tranquillity.”
Not coincidentally, non-English ethnic groups had been among the core supporters of the Democratic-Republicans in 1796.
According to Wikipedia, opposition to the Federalists, the party of Alexander Hamilton, spurred by Democratic-Republicans of Thomas Jefferson and Jemmy Madison, reached new heights with the Democratic-Republicans’ support of France, which was still in the midst of the French Revolution.
Some appeared to desire in the United States an event similar to the French Revolution, in order to overthrow the government.
When Democratic-Republicans in some states refused to enforce federal laws such as the 1791 whiskey tax, the first tax levied by the national government, and threatened to rebel, Federalists warned that they would send in the army to force them to capitulate.
As the unrest sweeping Europe spread to the United States, calls for secession reached unparalleled heights, and the fledgling nation seemed ready to tear itself apart.
Some of this agitation was seen by Federalists as having been caused by French and French-sympathizing immigrants so that the Alien Act and the Sedition Act were meant to guard against this perceived threat of anarchy.
Jumping forward in time, on December 7, 1941, responding to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the authority of the revised Alien Enemies Act to issue presidential proclamations 2525 (Alien Enemies – Japanese), 2526 (Alien Enemies – German), and 2527 (Alien Enemies – Italian), to apprehend, restrain, secure and remove Japanese, German, and Italian non-citizens.
On February 19, 1942, citing authority of the wartime powers of the president and commander in chief, Roosevelt made Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War to prescribe military areas and giving him authority that superseded the authority of other executives under Proclamations 2525-7.
EO 9066 led to the internment of Japanese Americans, whereby over 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the Pacific coast were forcibly relocated and forced to live in camps in the interior of the country, 62% of whom were United States citizens, not aliens.
Hostilities with Germany and Italy ended in May 1945, and with Japan in August.
Alien enemies, and US citizens, continued to be interned.
On July 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman issued Presidential Proclamation 2655, titled “Removal of Alien Enemies,” which proclamation gave the Attorney General authority regarding aliens enemies within the continental United States, to decide whether they are “dangerous to the public peace and safety of the United States”, to order them removed, and to create regulations governing their removal.
The proclamation cited the revised Alien Enemies Act (50 U.S.C. 21–24) as to powers of the President to make public proclamation regarding “subjects of the hostile nation” more than fourteen years old and living inside the United States but not naturalized, to remove them as alien enemies, and to determine the means of removal.
On September 8, 1945, Truman issued Presidential Proclamation 2662, titled “Removal of Alien Enemies”.
The revised Alien Enemies Act (50 U.S.C. 21–24) was cited as to removal of alien enemies in the interest of the public safety.
The United States had agreed, at a conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1942, to assume responsibility for the restraint and repatriation of dangerous alien enemies to be sent to the United States from Latin American republics, and in another inter-American conference in Mexico City on March 8, 1945, North and South American governments resolved to recommended adoption of measures to prevent aliens of hostile nations who were deemed to be security threats or threats to welfare from remaining in North or South America.
Truman gave authority to the Secretary of State to determine if alien enemies in the United States who were sent to the United States from Latin America, or who were in the United States illegally, endangered the welfare or security of the country.
The Secretary of State was given power to remove them “to destinations outside the limits of the Western Hemisphere”, to the former enemy territory of the governments to whose “principles of which (the alien enemies) have adhered”.
The Department of Justice was directed to assist the Secretary of State in their prompt removal.
On April 10, 1946, Truman issued Presidential Proclamation 2685, titled “Removal of Alien Enemies”, citing the revised Alien Enemies Act (50 U.S.C. 21–24) as to its provision for the “removal from the United States of alien enemies in the interest of the public safety”.
In 1947 New York’s Ellis Island continued to incarcerate hundreds of ethnic Germans.
For the record, Harry S. Truman was a Democrat, as was FDR.
So there is a bit of authentic reality, people, to counterbalance the inauthentic reality being fed to us on this question of immigration by Hillary Clinton and the Democrat party, who are making an issue of immigration for political gain for themselves, at the expense of the immigrants who are their pawns in this political struggle for political power here in the USA between the Democrats of Hillary Clinton and the Republicans of Donald Trump.
With the courtesy of the Cape Charles Mirror, I would like to continue this discussion in further installments, so thank you to the Cape Charles Mirror for providing me with this platform to do so, and thank you for your interest in this subject of importance to all of us, no matter which side of the issue you are on.