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US Editorials Called the Polish Immigrant Grandparents of Laura Ingraham ‘Undesirables’

Ingraham's typical Know-Nothing pronouncements on immigration to the US

"Laura Ingraham’s maternal grandparents were immigrants from Poland." (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

"Laura Ingraham’s maternal grandparents were immigrants from Poland." (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Professional bigot Laura Ingraham, ensconced in the primo 10 pm slot at Fox Cable News, has delivered herself of one of her typical Know-Nothing pronouncements on immigration to the US.

First of all, the fourth wave of migration to the US has not been unprecedented, as indicated by the word “fourth.” There have been previous waves. One of them unfortunately produced Laura Ingraham. Taken together, these waves of immigration produced ‘the country we love.’

Second, the 1965 immigration law was crafted by the elected representatives of the people of the United States, i.e. Congress. It isn’t true that ‘we’ didn’t vote for it and don’t want it. Immigration-haters are always posing as the true voice of the people. “We weren’t asked!” they say. But the people were asked. In fact, because of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, the people were embarrassed by 1965 at the Nazi immigration law of 1924 that set quotas for immigration essentially by race. And the current law was crafted by Southern white representatives and senators in hopes of favoring northern European immigration– that was the reason for the bias toward family unification and “chain migration.” They had mainly admitted French, British, Scandinavians, etc. since 1924, so they hoped they could privilege that group. Unfortunately for white supremacy, the Europeans got to be well off in their own countries and stayed there, and it was Asians, Latinos and Africans who wanted to come, and then the family unification provisions unexpectedly helped them . The racists were hoisted on their own petard.

In 1900, midway through the third migration wave in US history, there were only about 76 million Americans. Between 1880 and 1924, some 20 million persons immigrated into the US. That is, the newcomers constituted on average 25 percent of the national population. That was a slightly bigger demographic change that the one the US has been experiencing since 1965. Since 1965 about 59 million immigrants have come to the US, though there aren’t that many now because some have died and some have returned home. The US population midway through that process was about 250 mn. So that is less that 25%.


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Laura Ingraham’s maternal grandparents were immigrants from Poland, Michael Kozak and Carolina/Caroline Mazur. Her Polish-American mother worked as a waitress into her early 70s.

The white Protestant Kansas City Star saw Polish immigrants as uneducated, lacking in skills, lazy and in general “undesirable,” and called for a halt to immigration from Poland as early as 1895:

      “Time to Call a Halt.” (Kansas City, Missouri), January 26, 1895.

“Even if there was a time when unrestricted immigration was a benefit to a new country, with its great areas of unsettled lands and a limited population, it does not follow that the legislation or non-legislation of that time should prevail with a great continental empire which, in myany places, has a crowding population. In the decade, 1820-1830, 128,293 immigrants arrived in the United States; in the decade, 1880-1890, 5,246,613 immigrants arrived. Anyone can very readily see a great difference of conditions. Should there not have been a difference in legislation and regulation to meet it?

“In 1869 the per cent of immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Italy, Poland and Russia was 0.9; the per cent of immigrants from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Scandinavia was 72.8. In 1894 the per cent of immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Italy, Poland and Russia was 38.7; from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Scandinavia it was 52.6 percent. Here was a great change of conditions; an enormous increase of undesirable immigration. Should there not have been regulating legislation, restriction? The great difference which demands a difference in the treatment of immigration is the difference in its character.

[The northern Europeans come educated and skilled.] “Later came the swarming immigration from Austria-Hungary, Poland, Italy and Russia. These represent the poverty of their native countries, the laborers who work for the lowest wages or the class who do not work at all. These, too, are the most ignorant; they cannot read or write their own or any other language. Is there any reason why this latter immigration should be welcomed as was the former? Is there any reason why it should be welcomed at all?”

Then the next year the Philadelphia Inquirer (“Something More About Immigration,” Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) • March 29, 1896 • Page 6) insisted that only two states in the union were seeking Italian immigrant labor, and said that none of the states wanted Russians, Poles or Hungarians.

Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His new book, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East (Simon and Schuster), will officially be published July 1st. He is also the author of Engaging the Muslim World and Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (both Palgrave Macmillan). He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

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