Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Immigrants and War

Tonight we're hosting a talk with David Laskin, who has written a remarkable book about twelve men who fought for the United States in World War I. While 2.5 million American soldiers fought in the war, nearly one out of five - some half a million - were immigrants.

What questions this small fact brings up for us... what was it like for these men to find themselves back in Europe, fighting for their new nation? Were they trusted citizen-soldiers? And, of course, what must it be like for any immigrant to fight for a new nation? How can we connect their stories to today, when about 31,000 non-citizen immigrants are currently enlisted in the US Armed Forces? In 2002, President Bush signed an executive order that allowed any immigrant soldier to apply for immediate citizenship instead of waiting the customary three years (already about two years shorter than other immigrants). As of January, military applicants can expect to wait a year.

Of course, there is no end to discussion about these policies (just read the comments section on any of the linked articles!). As always, at the Tenement Museum we hope that, by providing a historical perspective, we will provoke thought and discussion about these timely issues.

I hope you'll join us to hear Laskin's story - well, really, the story of Andrew Christofferson, Meyer Epstein, Antonio Pierro and the other nine soldiers in his book - and bring your opinions and questions.

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