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Grandpa was 'Unaccompanied Minor' to U.S. - in 1907

August 09, 2014 (1 min read)

"There are no easy answers to the problem of thousands of desperate children, many unaccompanied minors, fleeing chaos, violence and governmental collapse in Central America.  Yet seeing some of my fellow Americans jeering busloads of frightened children and hearing commentators dismiss these children as someone else's problem has left me wondering exactly what kind of country we have turned into, and how quickly we forget our own history.  My grandfather arrived on Ellis Island in 1907 as an unaccompanied 9-year-old from an impoverished small town in what is now Belarus. ... Chaim arrived at Ellis Island penniless and alone.  Social workers kept him there until they found a cousin willing to claim him. ... He volunteered for the U.S. Army during World War I and became an American citizen.  After the war he started a small moving business that grew to be modestly successful, employing about a dozen men.  He married a U.S.-born girl whose family came from his hometown.  Together they ran the business, raised two sons who later served in the U.S. military and went on to successful careers.  Frenchy and his wife lived to see their grandchildren, who eventually became reasonably decent and productive Americans. ... [O]ne of my father's favorite stories about my grandfather concerned a year in the late 1940s when his accountant told him that after depreciation on his trucks and various other deductions, he owed no federal tax.  Frenchy would have none of it.  To the accountant's horror, he insisted on writing a check for the same amount he had paid the previous year.  America had taken him in when he was a hungry, frightened child.  Whatever his shortcomings, America had allowed him to prosper by the sweat of his brow.  Now a successful man, he was not going to hide behind some accountant's tricks and shirk his duty to pay his fair share.  Paying his share was what a man did.  It was what an American did." - Philip Kasinitz, Aug. 8, 2014.