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Yes, it matters that past immigrants asked for permission before entering the U.S.

Yes, it matters that past immigrants asked for permission before entering the U.S.
Newly arrived immigrants disembark from the passenger steamer Thomas C. Millard upon their arrival at Ellis Island in New York in the early 20th century. (Getty Images)

To the editor: Jennifer Mendelsohn writes of beatifying the immigrants of past generations, who “worked 12 jobs and never took a penny of assistance” and “walked to school uphill both ways while carrying a hot potato.” (“Missing from the immigration debate: receipts,” Opinion, Feb. 9)

Mendelsohn appears to be mocking one group of immigrants in order to defend more recent arrivals. That’s hardly in keeping with the point she rightly tries to make about the hypocrisy of targeting certain groups and the unfairness of stereotypes. Her humor does not hide what appears to be some ridicule.

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Mendelsohn writes, “Crowing about ‘legal’ immigration from Europe prior to 1924 is essentially meaningless, as there were almost no laws in place for immigrants to break.”

Most immigrants of that period approached our gates and stopped to await permission to enter. Today, we have laws about the proper way to enter the country. That is indeed a meaningful distinction. Plus, it has nothing to do with the point of the article, as it brings down a certain group of immigrants and their descendants a notch or two.

Laura Kline, Valley Village

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To the editor: Plaudits to Mendelsohn for reminding us of how crucial immigrants have been to maintaining our country’s economic prowess.

Yet we still have xenophobic demagogues like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who ask how we can restore “our” civilization with “somebody else’s babies.” King dodges a key fact: Without immigration the U.S. population would have declined since 1971, to the detriment of a capitalistic economy that thrives on constant market expansion.

It’s not that King doesn’t want our citizens’ birth rates to surpass population replacement levels: He advocates making abortion illegal except in cases of “forcible” rape.

So don’t bother asking King a most apt question: “How can we maintain America without somebody else’s babies?”

Edward Alston, Santa Maria

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