The Corner

Re: Nation of Immigrants

Derb, I’ve always been facinated by the philosopher’s fallacy — better be careful here, I mean a philosopher’s fallacy — which conflates a phenomenon with one’s perception of the phenomenon.  For a prosecutor, by the way, this is an unacceptable error:  you always have to be keenly aware of difference between reality and how we think we know reality — juries will often acquit, even if they believe your case, if they don’t think your witnesses were really in a position to know what they’ve said they know.

So, with chagrin, I concede your correspondent could be right:  I may be guilty of this error.  Like everyone else, I’ve heard the “nation of immigrants” rhetoric for years.  But, on top of that, I grew up in New York City, home of Ellis Island; my maternal grandparents were immigrants; my Bronx neighborhood was a multi-ethnic enclave where “just off the boat” was not necessarily a slur; and I went to Cardinal Hayes High School in the South Bronx, where my mates were of multivarious descent — Irish, Italian, Polish, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Black, Jamaican, Chinese, Japanese, etc. When I got to the U.S. Attorney’s office, many, many of my defendants were non-Americans (both legal and illegal immigrants), and I spent a number of years doing organized crime cases (focusing mainly on Sicilian, as opposed to strictly Italo-American, mafia groups), and then a number of years on international terrorism — in both instances dealing with lots of immigrants.

That’s a long-winded way of saying, I haven’t had a lot of reason to question the “nation of immigrants” rhetoric because it was entirely consistent with my experience.  But it’s quite possible that I am mistaking that experience for reality.  Maybe I just need to get out more.  But then, on occasion, when I do get out for dinner, I look across the table I find … you — a bloody immigrant!  You see why I’m confused …