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tv   Tyler Anbinder Discusses City of Dreams  CSPAN  January 3, 2017 2:30am-3:55am EST

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you see the scaffolding. the third floor of the building is now being transformed into an apartment in which over the years we had a family who survived the concentration camps and came here and started a new life on the lower east side, refugees will be telling their stories, a puerto rican migrant family that came here in the mid- 1950s and moved to the buildings in the 50s will be telling their story in the long family, chinese family that came to the lower east side and 65 and moved into the building and 68. these are new stories we'll be able to weave together and use the same techniques we've used which is sees the stories of real people, in order to inspire connections past and present.
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what we do here is not just talk about the history of immigration and migration but also talk about its connections to today. and if you are some of you might head home to watch the end of a third active debate, were probably not much of substance will come up. were excited to welcome you tonight to have a conversation about immigration past and present with two of our most favorite scholars and people who have worked with us behind the scenes with r educators and on our exhibits. i know some of your family members of the speakers, the parents and sister, welcome. were also museum about family. so we want to invite you into the broader family. come back, come to more exhibits exhibits and come to more programs. welcome tonight to this program
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on city of dreams. one last thing is that i don't know if you know this, but in 1885 a german immigrant came to this neighborhood to blacks from here and had a barber sword. his name was frederick trump. so, all of of these immigration stories will come together tonight some way. i will do a quick introduction and ask you and i will do it myself, if you have a phone turn off the volume. and i want to thank tom edison for help sponsor the talks. so we have a professor of history and former chair of the history department at george washington university.
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his first book, nativism and slavery won a prize at the organization of american historians. his second book, five points when the new york city book of 2001 and it's one of the most top read books. he served as a consultant to martin -- of new york. i'm told that martin did not listen to all of the suggestions and his ancestors came to new york from germany, poland, ukraine and russia. joining him and then from new york university a speaker will interview him and have a conversation. is the author of the award-winning maximum city, bombay lost and found which was a finalist for the 2000 by pulitzer prize. his works been published in the new york times magazine, national geographic, harpers time and "newsweek".
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he is an associate professor of journalism at new york university. currently working on a nonfiction book about immigrants and contemporary new york. when that that comes out tyler will interview him here. he was born in calcutta and raised in bombay in new york. one thing tonight after you watch the debate, if you you want to be cheered up, google his article called the melting pot. about one building in queens that tells a story of different people were sharing an apartment building. sister that's provided inspiration here. please join me in welcoming tyler and binder. [applause] >> thank you for the kind welcome and thank you for coming. was asked to give a ten or 15
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minute overview of the city of dreams. i have to admit that is a daunting task if you have seen the book. it's a big book and tells a lot of stories. i will do my best to summarize it in ten or 15 minutes. one thing i am asked is why wrote the book. in part i was inspired because as i worked on my second book, "five points" i came across a material i couldn't use because the stories didn't take place met six by four block area. so as i accumulated these great stories i thought i really needed something, some other way to convey them. the other main thing that inspired the ones i wanted a
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narrative challenge. i love to writing and put a lot of work into my writing and i sweats over sometimes every word. but i had written your typical historical books and i wanted to challenge. i thought writing the history of new york immigrants from the early 17th century to the present would be a challenge. it certainly was in the final reason i wanted to is that it's just a great story. i found just writing it made me happy, telling the stories which sometimes the stories are terrible, sometimes they're uplifting, but they always teach us something. so i just felt like it was a story i had to tell. even though the book is long, it's 222 chapters and tells a story of a lot of immigrant
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groups that have come to new york. it focuses on the biggest immigrant groups for each century in the city's history. the 17th century the focus is on the dutch and then the english in the 18th century the english and irish and then the irish and germans and eastern european genes and italians and that in the 20th century the jews, italians dominicans, chinese, west indians and so forth. so even though you might think how could you bring those all those diverse stories together into one narrative, the book is held together by several themes. i tried to do it in a very subtle way. i did not want the reader to be hit over the head with here's what you should be thinking now. i tried to make it subtle and i hope i succeeded in that. there's a couple of themes.
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this is an image is probably taken not far from here of a worker, probably and i tell you garment worker. one theme of the book is that the immigrant experience has not very much over new york city's history. one thing i found is the dutch were not that different at their core than the english in the english were not that different than the scots and the scots from the irish, buyers from the germans and the germans from the italians all the way up till today were the biggest immigrant group in terms of proportion is outpatient. the stories almost always the same, hard journey to america, struggled to adjust, little assimilation better lives for themselves and their children. we tend to think of the experience of our own ethnic
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group is unique and in some sense every ethnic group's experience is unique. but in most senses the immigration experiences the same. generation after generation, century after century. another theme of the book is the theme -- [inaudible] here's an image from red red 1900 that conveys some of the same ideas that you might hear the press today. throughout american history americans have worried about immigrants, feared feared immigrants, sometimes even hated immigrants. the dutch were very anti- english. they thought the english would ruin america and the place they had created. the english were anti- irish.
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by the mid-nineteenth 19th century new yorkers were very anti- catholic. later on the same immigrants, not only the ones that were anti- catholic but the ones discriminated against become anti-semites. and so on up to anti- muslim sentiment today. people's anti-immigrant sentiment once a gambit of emotions. as sometimes immigrants were condemned for being too conservative. other times they're condemned for being too radical. sometimes people complain sometimes people complain that immigrants take our jobs. other times new yorkers have to play that immigrants were part of a secret army plotting to destroy america. something we have heard throughout american history throughout new york history.
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the other theme of the book is that immigrants today really aren't any difference in an important sense than previous generations of immigrants. we tend to think that today's immigrants are not like my grandparents but in every sense in every way immigrants are just like our immigrant grandparents or great-grandparents or even great-great-grandparents. the differences we perceive surface differences. it may matter to us a lot because of our ethnic identification or more often than not the result of our mythologizing the past experience of our own immigrants. so as long as their people somewhere in the world seeking a better life for themselves and their children, looking to move
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to a place where hard work, bold ideas and entrepreneurship are rewarded, new york will continue to be the world city of dreams. thank you. [applause] >> thank you it is a privilege to be here with you. as someone who has been working for to the on a book about immigrants in new york today i am in all of your achievement. telling to take did it take you to write this book? >> well if i have to admit it, 15 years. the writing itself may be for years, there is a lot of
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research when into it. a lot of of feeling that i cannot start writing until i know more and there's so much to learn and read. so 15 years and for writing. >> will thank you, that makes me feel so much better. i am only only in your nine of my book. what made you. [inaudible] in your talk what was the actual process for writing? he talked about various accounts and then there's realistic characters in the book. as a historian, how do you choose one approach over the other? >> what i wanted to do more than
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anything else was write a good story, something people would want to read and something they would not want to put down even though it's a big book. so i feel like it's always best to let historical actors tell their own stories and the memoirs are great source. you cannot always trust memoirs. memory is faulty, people embellish, that makes things complicated. they learn to use your judgment and you hope you get things right. is my main concern to keep readers to find the story gripping. >> one of the stories was the story of felix, you have a section about the 1863 -- which were mainly riding against blacks and republicans.
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there were over 100 deaths. so there's a famous irish immigrant who said we do not want to fight, fight and fight, as an immigrant who is not too long ago his own people were discriminated against, for that and for everybody once in history but his own career, felix career took a strange twist. >> sure. felix branigan, that sentences quoted in dozens of history books is the epitome of the cause of the new york city draft rates. irish immigrants who don't want
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to be made the equal of eric i believe that the war of emancipation are going to do that. so he cited over and over again of this racism and certainly can't tonight. yet what happens to him which happens in any book written before, he writes that in 1862, a few months later lincoln issues the emancipation proclamation which makes it legal now for ex- slaves and blacks to fight in the union army and they joined by the tens of thousands of the army has trouble they think that only whites can be officers other units but they have trouble finding whites who will serve as officers for the black soldiers. strangely what they discovered is one of the soldiers who volunteers to the one of their
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regiments is felix, which struck me as very strange. and he does his first in south carolina and then in savannah georgia in 1864, 65, and 66. what i thought was interesting is after the war he moved to washington and goes to law school at george washington and after he gets a job as a u.s. attorney and of all places, jackson, mississippi. in jackson, mississippi his job is primarily to prosecute bootleggers in -- so here you you have felix branigan who up until 1862 was not was not the kind of person who would seem to have much sympathy for african-americans now becoming a
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prosecutor of those who persecuted him. i thought that was great story. >> the books also make me realize that a personal hero of mine was whitman. he was troubled. so one of my students in the room and one of the things i like to do is on the first day of class i like to take them on the staten island ferry and then read the great -- cross crossing brooklyn's very. here's this great celebrator of humanity and all things new york. but in 1842 it was whitman whitman was the tories the anti- catholic and there's much
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discussion about election violence. so you have this passage on page 192 of the book, on election day in the fix rule, each faction attempted to prevent for this casting their ballots. the fight was the blood he and they were so beaten about the head that they cannot be recognized as human beings. policemen led. [inaudible] they invaded the -- then they wanted to rebuke their course. [inaudible] had it been the hypocrites head
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that have been smashed instead we could hardly find it. since interesting that you make this connection with election violence in the past and the fact that a person is humane is whitman would be issued against -- >> it's hard to appreciate today how protestant americans felt their nation was and how much they felt it defined america and how much they thought catholicism is a threat. so because americans thought that protestantism was what defined america and what made america
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great, what gave us our freedoms, they looked at it and said look at the world the only place that has democracies protestant nations. look at the place that has the most scientific ingenuity it's protestant country. obviously there reading history little oddly. nonetheless that's what they believed. and so they saw catholic immigrants as a threat to that. in this particular case what whitman is especially upset about is something that we can all imagine we get upset about which is the public school, there's a big fight, catholic immigrants coming to new york in the public schools were shocked to find that the curriculum of the schools were overly protestant. the children were required to read from the king david bible appearance of catholic children objected to that.
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instead of saying i see your point, maybe we should alw catholic children to read fr a catholic version of the bible and so forth, american protestant said no, we must keep the schools protestant because that's what makes america great. if we take that out of the schools our children and our nation will suffer. pe suffer. people felt very strongly about the and that is what inspired whitman's -- [inaudible] [inaudible] where peter tried to ban others english people flushing issue a
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few years ago he made a grueling speech about this islamic center and why the city haa lot of the conflict has been traditional tolerance and diversity. but in the book most of the people who signed it eventually were forced -- >> so peter was also not a very tolerant person and for him even friday's of protestantism that the dutch not like were out of line. so lutherans were big enemy of peter, he wanted to ban lutherans from new amsterdam of the company that ran the colony
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they really had to let that lutherans command and were not being fair, you can keep banning people. so then he allows the lutherans to go with all the and quakers were seen as more of a threat because their form of protestantism was quite radical without having a minister be the head that seems so anti-minard take that it would lead to all sorts of anarchy. so these -- of queens and flushing say this really isn't right what you're doing banning all of these and banishing the quakers. it's generally cited as the first example of a demand for religious tolerance and what becomes the united states. this the part of the story people don't tend to know as
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they get -- and they say disagree. he goes to people and says you either recant or you are bantu. most of the people and up recanting and disavowing them rather than finding themselves exiled from the colony as well. even in this example with their fleet for religious tolerance nothing is coming forward. >> today, the foreign-born population of new york city and we tend to think this is some sort of historic hype on immigration, 27% of the city is foreign-born. two of the three are immigrant or their children. but in 1855 when it when it was 51% for more and then by 1920
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was 41% and then it dipped in 1917 to a mere 18 percent, and now it is come up to 27%. so -- >> can you talk about the major lar movement explaining the radical -- and did you get a sense of how the provisions are made in washington about which group and when? >> that's that's a complicated question. first of all let me talk about your point. and in particular to get a sense of how wild and how in comparison to the past it is not. the best example is 1855 were
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51% of the city's residents are immigrants. what's more interesting about that is the fact that in those days new york is generally had much bigger families, lots of kids so the really most of the nativeborn new yorkers were children. if you look at adults in 1855, seven out, seven out of ten adults living in new york reform born. that's an incredible number compared to today. rest new york today is the one third less immigrants than it was in 1855, if you talk about adults it's even far less. in terms of how laws affect the open flow of immigration, for most of new york's history laws have had nothing to do with that the flow of immigration history. economics has had much more of an impact.
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so people have tended to come to the united states either because they saw a great opportunity here or because there was a lack of that opportunity where they were coming from. for most of american history they've had that much impact coming into the united states. the first time that in fact become significant is with this exclusion act in 1982. although the chinese are very small immigrant group comparatively at that point nationwide and especially small and new york, the the laws only start to have a significant impact on checking the flow of immigrants in the 1920s when you probably the one time in american history where large numbers of both major political parties agree that immigration should be restricted. and that's a result of world war
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i with their millions of refugees in europe who want many of them to, many don't want them to come. this fear combined with the fear of the roaring 20s will somehow be squelched by large numbers of immigrants convinces americs to c off the flow immigration. so in the 1920s to get laws that are also very racist in their underpinning. but laws basically savior from england you can come to the united states and unlimited number. if you're from italy or russia the number cuts from where we are before world war i to after by well over 90% and by 194498 percent. 98%. so the immigration from italy,
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greece and pulling cuts to almost nothing. that's that's the reason you have it there in 1970 with immigrant population is so low. it's only in 65 that congress changes those laws and goes back to a system where no one country gets privilege over another in immigrants. the final thing in terms of the flow today, there's there's unintended consequences from the 1965 for which puts in place there still the limits but there's exceptions to those limits or family members in the united states. the lawmakers don't anticipate how many family members ovation immigrants or latino immigrants are going to want to come to the united states. that is one of the reasons why
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immigration rose more rapidly after 1970 than the lawmakers expect. >> my uncle came here as an engineer to detroit in the early 1970s and by the early 1980s we had 50 members of my family over here. [inaudible] >> important thing to note about the diversity lottery is they can only qualify for the diversity lottery if you come from a country that has very few immigrants in the united states now. so people from the manger and even the middle income countries that are represented amongst american population are not eligible for the diversity
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lottery. this however the reason you're getting larger number of immigrants from africa then you have before and some parts of south america and from some parts of south asia. really only those pieces qualify for the diversity lottery. [inaudible] you talk about people making their way here, like the irish flame from the potato famine. >> if ever you think you've had a bad travel experience. [laughter] you should just think abt what the irish immigrants in the german immigrants for that matter and even the english in the dust before them, pretty much all immigrants coming to the united states before the event of steamships around the
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1860s had to go through. the irish situation was by far the worst because they were so poor and the shipping companies squeeze many more immigrants into the ships and they should have. your typical compartment would not have been much bigger than this room. maybe this is too wide actually. and you could have in a room like this, what are we have here, may be 75 or hundred people? you? you would've had to have 200 people and maybe in some just 400 people in the space. some ships 500 people. so how did you do that? you that? you had bunks in their be triple bunks. there go to floor to ceiling. in addition you you would see two or three per bunk.
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one of the worst parts was that you didn't necessarily get to share the funk with someone you knew because to squeeze as many people on if you are a single woman and there is a family of three and walmart person in the bunk you had to squeeze in that family. it was after the civil war they decided to segregate the sexes and single women from all the men. it turns out not only first they separate him from the single woman from the single men within they just end up all the women have to be separate from all the men. that only happens by the 1870s. so they crammed into the bunk and then one of the problems
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it's not like the headlights today but these are body lights. the body lights would make you sick because the light it's the lice and it would get on your skin and you would die from ship fever. you got a high fever, you vomited, the terrible thing. imagine if you're [inaudible] the top bunk. the people have a fever above you and where is obama going? it's going on you. you talking about burlap or wood and flat. so the vomit is coming down on you. and it's terrible. it's one of the many diseases you catch on the ship.
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at the height of the potato famine is common for a couple of dozen to be dead by the time it got to new york in a couple dozen more to die after because they got infected but not sick cap. like a lot of them some of those ships hundreds of people died. it was an awful experience. >> i will never complain about that again. [laughter] q talk about what happened with ellis island. now this really blew my mind. nobody's name get changed at ellis island. for every immigrant that we have ever seen they cannot pronounce
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the long polish or german name and gave a new american name, this did not happen. >> i'm afraid this is one of those many immigration myths. probably one of the most prevalent ones. at ellis island the people who work there had no authority to give your name. in fact, when you left ellis island you did not leave within a piece of paper at all. you were just -- nothing by your hand and says this is your new name. nobody can say to here's your new name. after realizing its immigrants or family had to be processn one minute. by law, each inspector had to ask 30 questions. they had to ask all of the questions. there is no time to get you a new name so what we
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theorizes a lot immigrants tried to change the name to make them seem more american. we laugh about how un-american the names they chose are. as a case in my family, but one theory is lot of immigrants who change their name or whatever were embarrassed about the fact and so later said well it was the people at ellis island to may me to when in fact it was the immigrants themselves. >> the -- that they carried with them, the notice. [inaudible] european said they broke every treaty that they signed, it was
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they lied about their agents and occupations,. [inaudible] people want to leave your because they could be liable. so it was strategic narrative that had to be offered when they got off the ship, what was some of those? >> while there are two parts to that, one is that both mccall tradition of course up until the opening of ellis island there is no need to live. there is no scary questions asked. up until that point they look to you and off he went. so especially with the opening of ellis island in 1892 that you
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have more this culture of lying begins. the funny thing is that people lied about things they did not need to lie about. we find that all the time. people added years to their age which wasn't necessary, they play different jobs which was irrelevant because the people at ellis island would assume that you are line. so they look for is that you're healthy. they assumed as long as you can really shovel or pick you could make it an you be fine. it's those who who look sickly that would be turned away. the other part that i want to mention that may be are not referring to is that we tend to think of illegal immigration is this modern, recent phenomenon. as they talk about in the book illegal immigration goes back 100 years and more in american
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history. as soon as those laws were put into place in the 1920s they start going into the united states. but it situation i telling immigrants from the early 20th century. yet, that's a totally forgot story. yet you look at the press of the 1920s pretty much the same stories you read today about illegal immigrants from mexico or china are written except the protagonists are from italy or russia. they sneak in on boats and in compartments, they go through rivers and they do all the things that illegal immigrants do today but they were from greece or russia and we totally forgot that story and yet that's a huge part of american immigration. and it would've been for a lot of the people who lived here.
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>> you write,. [inaudible] they seem totally different to come from nations some of this is unfamiliar to most native american can workers. they they made no effort to learn english, and unlike previous generations they're seen many times in their homeland. many believe that they wipe out economic vitality. even as one well-known new yorker famously said quote, they're bringing drugs, drugs, their bringing crime, their rapists, who might this well-known new yorker be? and and why would he say such a thing?
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>> do you want me to answer that? >> yes. >> that is donald trump in 2015 a famous new yorker, so i think trump is perpetuating a lot of the myths about immigration. but what you can say is that he is following a long tradition in which americans said precisely those things about immigrants for 400 years. so in that sense, trump is very much a part. >> i went to high school with guys like donald trump. [inaudible] >> i would run like hell from them.
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[inaudible] [inaudible] trump grew up in a place and now it's not,. [inaudible] there's 30 or 40% of the country there really give his message and believes he's on to something. and by reading this book understand there's been long tradition of not just immigration but resistance, talk
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about some of the earlier donald trump that came along. >> sure. there are too many to name, but one example i mention of the book is congressman martin dies of texas who in the 1920s proposed a lot of the same things that trump has proposed today. something he wanted to do was first cut off all immigration. he said there's too many immigrants and we have to have a rest and number immigrants. but he went further in the 19 twenties, the second thing he wanted to do was support the immigrants who were are ready here who hadn't been american citizens yet. so he said we should give all the immigrants one year and if they're not an american citizen within one year there kicked out
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of the country. which what he was implying is that immigrants have a choice that they could get match lies within a year but you had to be within the united states five years before he could become naturalized. so for a lot of immigrants her that was not an option. congress seriously debated proposals but that's one example, i guess the other example i talk about in the book is the know nothing party which is the anti-immigrants and the anti-irish party from the 18 fifties. 1850s. the interesting thing is that concept that know nothings through all their never wanted to restricts immigration. on people coming to the united
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states, they did not want to restrict, they do not want to lessen with the immigrants, they wanted wanted to 21 your way before immigrants could vote. they said if you're born in the united states after a 21 years before they can vote why shouldn't in immigrant have to a 21 years to learn what it means to be an american. so that never gets connected either but the do nothings to elect more than hunt people in congress so they are very significant -- not the majority of the population but a very significant minority. that's been a constant in american history that there's been both a large number of americans thinking well today's
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immigrants are not the right people, we don't want these people anymore, if you can have immigrants like my grandparents we should have anymore at all. that's why going on in the united states for as long as we have been a nation. >> i don't think there is any group in the country today that is as dehumanized as muslims. you're right. the value of islamic is in incompatible with america. so trump and his muslim band a very large minority and maybe even a majority. yet every argument typically put forward as to why muslims come to america that they are prone to violence, that they follow the dictate the foreign religious leaders, and that their religion is incompatible
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with the principles that make america great. i think hillary clinton should read out of this. >> one thing i will point out about that passage, i've not heard hillary clinton say something like that but president obama up to a few months ago said that in his speech. i didn't didn't think it was well enough covered because trump gets all the attention. in terms of muslim immigrants, new york has a much longer experience with muslim immigrants and most people know. we actually had a little syria. syria and immigrants have a long history and we had a little syria in the 20th century,
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down kind of the very lower west side of manhattan on the west side south of where the world trade center was. along washington street in particular. so this was a fairly large, vibrant -- what was called serious we called serious today and will become lebanon today. it is a little more heterogeneous than you might imagine. it was a mixed religious community that had both christians and muslims. but it was a large well-known art of the city and one of the exotic neighborhoods. when people would write up a profile of ethnic new york always little syria was part of the description. it kind of disappears for reasons nobody's sure about after world war i. there's there's not much immigration
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from this and it appears that they moved to other parts of the united states before it became a particular place where syrian immigrants moved. phase from the city's memory. >> today the largest group of immigrants is the dominican, the fastest-growing would be mexican. >> it depends on how you defined fastest-growing, the mexican most recent figures the mexican immigration has leveled off. in terms of percentages the fastest-growing immigrant population in new york would be south asian muslims. so pakistan, bangladesh, places like that. in terms of sheer numbers the fastest-growing is still chinese immigrants and very soon chinese
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immigrants will outnumber american immigrants in new york. >> and staten island many people think is an extension of new jersey actually is huge numbers, african in terms of proportionate fastest-growing immigrant. >> correct. in terms of proportion, staten island's' immigrant population is growing faster than any other , yet staten island has been by far the lowest proportion of immigrant population the citywide is 37%, staten island is about 25. it's the smallest but growing proportionately. >> in the introduction very little has changed with immigration, the kind of people who come through jan here.
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on accepted into the nation's political life, they get -- and those who come after them. and the ways in which they come here but i'm wondering if in one way things change. the people who came here on the ship they weren't able to go back to their homeland regularly. it might go back to her three times in their life, some not at all. but even those who come now risk the availability of cheap international airfare when my family came over we went back men sometimes we go back to her three times a year. does this make it more possible for today's immigrant groups to
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continuously refresh their tie to the homeland? and also to for them to be less demand that we belong to an american identity. >> yes, and no i think his answer. first of all think it's important to realize that many more immigrants than we realize i have done back-and-forth trip. i telling immigrants, many many are telling immigrants would come and work nine months and go back to italy for three months so they too were refreshing their foren identity as a word. i telling said the most famous examples but they're not at all the only example.
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so we think it's a jet plane and will get there and ten hours, but for someone 100 years ago making it across the atlantic in his steam ship seemed fantastic also. and it seemed to bring their place of birth amazingly close. so i understand what you're saying but immigrants in the past also about some other ways to stay in touch. so where's today today it might be texting and that seems instantaneous, for someone who doesn't know texting, the telegraph is instantaneous and amazing. . .
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which seems so foreign to them outside of their immigrant enclave. make your own family immigrated from eastern europe and came to this neighbor to move don -- and moved on.
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about his growing up in brownsville and looking for the world beyond. and then you talk about the importance of food in the jewish community and occupying as the potato famine with the irish. talk about your own family in relation. >> so i have ancestors who came from what is now southwest germany and from poland and from what is now ukraine and what is now belarus and what is now russia. the earliest of my immigrant ancestors came to the united states around 1850 and actually settled first in buffalo before they ended up in new york city and then the next waive in my
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family came from what is now poland but then was the part of poland that prussia had taken over back in the 1870s and then this up to's don't come to united states until the early 20th century and they are the ones in particular who lived exclusively in this neighborhood as garment workers and my great-grandfather who was a dresser in various garment work basis until until finally saved up enough money to free the rest of the family which was my great-grandmother and my grandfather and his four or five sisters. they came over in the early 1920s and as soon as pretty much as soon as they get here he
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moves the family as you said but then they are looking i supposed to save money so they are in brownsville for a while on the move further to east new york and then they move to what might be the new loft area but then when they finally do better and circled back and head towards flatbush and that and that's where they end up although i think he and binder's -- anbinder grandfather met my anbinder grandmother in east new york. and at sea at one point they lived only a block and half away and my guess is that is when they somehow met. >> i have a young jewish friend who has an apartment on the lower east side and when heard
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jewish grandmother threw hands in horror and said i've spent half of my life trying to get out of the city. [laughter] we have got 15 or 20 minutes for questions. >> i wonder, do you think that we americans have learned anything and if we have what has been the process and what is blocking us? >> great questions. i think what you see over the 400 years that i cover in the book is that americans are very
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slowly but surely becoming more tolerant. it's kind of in fits and starts and it doesn't always progress in a straight line but i think americans are overall becoming more tolerant and i think the proportion of the population that looks at immigrants and thinks immigrants are positive for american society is probably at an all-time high. a huge part of it is illegal immigration. it may be surprising given the political climate when you look at the polling numbers about questions on immigration a huge majority of immigrants have no problems with immigrants legally. if the illegal immigrants that is the problem and that's a huge change because for most of american history any kind of
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immigrant with the messes threat i feel like even though it may be hard to to see given the political campaign i would say on the other hand think about how the campaign is going in at about how the republican nominee has not been bringing up immigration and i think that's t such a winning issue that he can't get a majority of voters using immigration as something to attract voters. it's true it's a sizable minority but not as big as you once thought. there've been lots of presidential candidates who have tried to use immigration to win the presidency. pat buchanan was one. the governor of california, what is his name from 20 years ago? >> wilson, exactly and they have made that the centerpiece of
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their campaign in the advice failed. my guess is going to fail again. another question. wait for the microphone. >> i have a question about climbing the social ladder of immigrants and i understand earlier on in american history they are mostly people from agrarian countries who are coming here. now we have schools and skillful people who are immigrating to america. how does climbing the social must ladder on the part of american immigrants look right now? >> i think, so you are
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absolutely right the main reason that is has changed is that the immigration laws that have been an active since 65 have favored, have given the second-biggest preference to people with job skills that are in short supply so that could be engineers like perhaps in your family, nurses. we have the new york a lot of filipino nurses and so yes it's definitely true there are a lot of skilled immigrants. but they are not the majority and so for the majority who people come with relatively huge job skills the story is much the same in which immigrants tend not to move very far up the ladder themselves with the exception being if they, if you look at their occupations they
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don't move up very much. in terms of their financial status they typically improve their lives a lot. what we do have today is a change in a large minority of immigrants who have been let in the country because they are i.t. specialists or doctors and so forth so for them, for them there isn't so much moving up an occupational ladder as it is perhaps adjusting to, hard to describe, to becoming socially acceptable becoming mainstream becomes a big concern and that's what those immigrants right of. their frustration for example i mentioned this doctor from india who complains that people meet him and they say are you a taxi driver and makes them so mad
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because that's a stereotype. so many of those immigrants that is the biggest concern, how do you override those prejudices rather than move up the economic ladder? [inaudible] >> yeah, the comment was she imagined it would be very similar with immigrants who come in i would imagine you are exactly right. >> this is following up on that point the woman made on jobs and moving up the ladder. particularly in new york do you see immigrant groups, and pick the jobs of police officers and firemen because i've noted in the last few years a tremendous amount of south asians and
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traffic officers and police officers, they follow the pattern. wondering if that's continuing and is something i have meant to notice and it totally. >> certainly in new york the police department in the city government in general is making a big effort to have their public face in speaker groups like the police match the faces of new new york was more generay especially with police trust more police representing the ethnicity of new york has been more important. i guess the difference would be the irish management dominates the police force when they came to new york in a way that you don't see anymore. that i find interesting. irish-americans are still a large presence in the new york police force even though irish immigrants aren't such a large
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presence. in some ways definitely that is change but in some ways not as much as you might expect. >> i follow the police academy and a class of 900 recruits spoke 47 different languages and that the graduation ceremony they had 25,000 cops there and the people were being celebrated. the number two person was a short bangladeshi man named mohammed islam. irish bagpipers stepped forward. >> that's a great story.
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>> i find it very interesting how you bring up the shift of how the immigrant population, how they shipped who basically gets the brunt of the how do we save prejudices. i'm a first generation born chinese immigrant and i have lived within the chinese community. there's a huge skirmish and that you have the whole community who has a huge dialogue about muslim sentiment in things that for many of us we are reading about it and listening to the radio and you have a lot to our very upset that the people within our community who are so anti-muslim
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but you are expressing is complete hypocrisy considering the people who came before us had to deal with the chinese exclusion and in based on your experience what can be done to fill the trip to the community that has had to deal with the? >> i mean what you are describing their is a story that is replayed in american history over and over again. that's screwed -- the group that's discriminated against turns around and becomes the chief discriminator gets the next group of immigrants. the irish tune to the italians and italian suited to the puerto ricans and right up to the president. there seems to be when you ask why because obviously that's the same, your rational is the same as the hypocrisy, how could you do that and yet immigrants, one of the way immigrants assimilate is to take on this notion that
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they are what they defined america and this new group doesn't. they quickly forget the way in which they have been portrayed and you could argue if i was a psychologist maybe i could make the argument, you could argue that part of the process of becoming american and part of what makes you feel american is to express that prejudice. you see your quote unquote american friends do it and so you were going to do it to. that's something that is not surprising. >> to carry on with what the gentleman said before i actually have friends in the asian community that are serving on the nypd and they just told me something very interesting. when they were being recruited they did feel that there was a sense that there was an effort to recruit in the minority community so it will reflect the
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changing faces of new york. when i looked at the nypd they are not serving in chinatown. they are off the rack of the five rows which i think is great and to carry on with what you are saying we have an older generation that to be honest frankly it's a shame that the younger generation that is working at the civil liberties union to help promote the tolerance for the muslim community. >> that's fascinating. >> have a question about ellis island. some people looked as though they couldn't -- they were disheveled that they were too weak. another was a hospital there but for the there until their health improved or were they kept back into paid for that?
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and when they got up this ship they were put on another ship and died on the way back. stinnett away works was if you have a curable disease you are put in the hospital at ellis island and allowed to try to recover and if you did you'd be led into the country. that's what happened actually to my grandfather and my great aunt who apparently suffered through world war i and then there's the famine in ukraine so by the time they get here they are apparently really sick. they are in the hospital at ellis island for six weeks until they are finally let in. if you had something that was curable you were allowed to recover. if you have something that's incurable like one of the things that got you was the steve -- disease called trachoma which was an eye infection and that at the time was before antibiotics
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and was not curable. if you have that you are sent back and as much of the tragedy is that was a lot of people didn't know they had it because it was often asymptomatic. you could have the disease that never know you are sick and tell you got there and then you were turned around. the one starting in 1909, there was the head of ellis island a guy named william weiland and he believed that too many what he called riffraff immigrants were being allowed into the united states so he on his own change the interpretation of the laws and made them more strict. one of the things he did was people who he instructed the people who weren't sick but looks like they were congenitally weak and this was used mostly against eastern european jewish. they'd say this person is never
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going to be allowed to hold a pickax so that he came a new way you couldn't go to the hospital and get better from that. but what does happen is the jewish immigrant aid organization is a very fierce defender of people who are singled out for that. a lot of them who were initially told they had to go home were eventually let in because of the efforts of the -- do we have a question the back? i feel bad for the people in the back there. i don't see any hands back there. maybe that's the quiet section . do you have your hand up way in the back? all right. can you talk a little bit about housing policy in the immigrant
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experience both from the past that now? >> for much of new york history there are no housing problems and the main thing is the shape and size of the house was the shape of the lot which was 25 feet by 100 feet which is a very narrow tight building and then the height of the building was dictated mostly by how much the walls that hold before they would collapse. that's why when you look at most of the buildings around here rarely are they higher than six stories. starting in the late 19th century housing developed and
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started to put in restrictions so in some way as the reformers believed through legislation they could make the immigrants lives better and so laws are put in place that for instance will limit the number of people who can occupy a single apartment or space. those laws are temp -- typically cloudy. immigrant life in new york around 1890 with the overcrowded buildings and then new york landowners have always been very creative in how to get around the good intentions of performers so at one point a lot is going to say every room has to have a window and so the thought is in that way if you have to have windows the owners will knock holes in the walls
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and the windows will let in more air pit with the builders to? they took the window between one room and another mini-apartment in and that way they would satisfy the law. the landlords wield a lot of political clout so that lott initially didn't allow for that. the tenement act of 1901 and new york landowners been pushed back in 1902 in 1903 they got the law changed to make it last for strict even more family -- more friendly for landlords. they rarely talked about the ways in which the law was backed because of the pressure from new york city's. the politically powerful landlords. so it's ice bin the intention to make immigrants lives better and i should say it's not just landlords. immigrants themselves are often fighting for things to.
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immigrants want to make their economic lives better so there is no one group that you can say is solely responsible for some of the failures of housing policies. >> i just wanted to take a opportunity to say if you want to see an apartment with one of those windows we have got a few and also first of all thank you both for this wonderful textured layered wonderful conversation. [applause] this is what we do here every day and several in the audience art educators. i think to end on a positive note i wanted to talk about in
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30 seconds the first woman voter at 97 orchard street. she was an immigrant and had come from romania. we know about her and we were able to locate her children who talked about her life and her.her jacqueline richter about growing up in the 1920s she and her sisters had two best friends who were sisters chinese sisters and they went to each other's house for food and they had a nice relationship. sure member of her mother say learn to judge people by themselves and not what they are. that's how we made friends. there is good and bad in every race but stay away from troublemakers and make friends with -- so i think these nice words can buoy us against the
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tradition of the type of which there is anti-immigrant sentiment and this idea of new york being all of these different commonplace cosmopolitan as cosmopolitanism of daily life. thank you all. you can buy this book.
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