On the Anniversary of Anne Frank’s Birth, It’s Worth Reflecting on FDR’s Immigration Policy

June 13 2019

Last Sunday would have been Anne Frank’s 90th birthday, a date that has prompted reflections on her life, death, and famous diary. Noting that by 1939 Frank’s parents were desperately trying to gain permission to enter the U.S., Rafael Medoff takes the occasion to examine the policies that prevented them from doing so:

Laws enacted by the U.S. Congress in the 1920s created a quota system to restrict immigration severely. . . . As president (beginning in 1933), Franklin Delano Roosevelt took a harsh immigration system and made it much worse. His administration went above and beyond the existing law to ensure that even those meager quota allotments were almost always underfilled. American consular officials abroad made sure to “postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas” to refugees, as one senior U.S. official put it in a memo to his colleagues. . . .

[In 1939], refugee advocates in Congress introduced the Wagner-Rogers bill, which would have admitted 20,000 refugee children from Germany outside the quota system. Anne Frank and her sister Margot were German citizens, so they could have been among those children. Supporters of the bill assembled a broad, ecumenical coalition. . . . The former first lady Grace Coolidge announced that she and her neighbors in Northampton, Massachusetts, would personally care for 25 of the children.

Even though there was no danger that the children would take jobs away from American citizens, anti-immigration activists lobbied hard against the Wagner-Rogers bill. President Roosevelt’s cousin, Laura Delano Houghteling, who was the wife of the U.S. commissioner of immigration, articulated the sentiment of many opponents when she remarked at a dinner party that “20,000 charming children would all too soon grow up into 20,000 ugly adults.” FDR himself refused to support the bill. By the spring of 1939, Wagner-Rogers was dead. . . .

At a press conference on June 5, 1940, the president warned of the “horrible” danger that Jewish refugees coming to America might actually serve the Nazis. They might begin “spying under compulsion” for Hitler, he said, out of fear that if they refused, their elderly relatives back in Europe “might be taken out and shot.” That’s right: Anne Frank, Nazi spy.

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Read more at History News Network

More about: Anne Frank, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Holocaust, Immigration

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform