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Perspective: Tracing Our Own Historical Thread Of Immigration

Cornell University
Isaac Kramnick

I recently read an extraordinary memoir written a few years ago by my dad’s cousin. 

Isaac was born in 1938 into a family in crisis. His mother’s mental health was deteriorating. His parents, immigrants from Poland, already had two difficult sons and were unhappily married. Isaac was an infant when his mother was institutionalized, and his father petitioned for Isaac to become a ward of Massachusetts. He spent his entire childhood as a foster child. He never knew his mother. This family was living no one’s vision of the American Dream. But Isaac survived. He attended Harvard and became a professor. 


Isaac’s memoir has brought him and his family to life for me, like seeing the staid black and white figures in old photographs become real. People who floundered, unable to keep the family intact. And people who beat the odds and went to college. 

I began to see our current immigration debate through a much longer lens. 

Immigrants have always come here seeking a better life, usually fleeing poverty and oppression. And immigrants have always faced resistance, prejudice, racial quotas, and border walls - all attempts by those who are here to close the door behind them. 

But no matter what our political views, with the exception of Native Americans, we can all trace the historical thread that connects our immigrant ancestors to the immigrants who came before them -- and to those who are here now. 

I’m Deborah Booth and that’s my perspective. 


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