Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search


NCDem47's Journal
NCDem47's Journal
September 17, 2022

Immigration hardliner DeSantis' great-great-grandmother was nearly barred from America

Old article, but very timely!

From Tampa Bay Times.

A Florida-based genealogist traced DeSantis' family tree from Italy to America. His great-great-grandmother just made it in.

By Steve Contorno
Former Times staffer
Published Aug. 21, 2018

As a lawmaker and now a candidate for governor, he has advocated for buildingTrump's border wall and closing the door on programs that allow family of recentimmigrants into the country. A century ago, the door was almost closed on his great-great-grandmother fromhis mother's side of the family. Luigia Colucci left Italy in early 1917 and arrived at Ellis Island on Feb. 21. WhileColucci crossed the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Actof 1917. Among other restrictions on "undesirable" immigrants, it barred illiterate people from entering the United States. Colucci couldn't read or write, according to immigration documents. But she wasspared; the law didn't go into effect until May. She was allowed in. The details of Luigia Colucci's journey were unearthed by Megan Smolenyak, aprofessional genealogist, and recently published on Medium. A former chiefhistorian for Ancestry.com, Smolenyak has consulted for the U.S. Army to locate family members of more than 1,200 unaccounted for soldiers of foreign conflictsand has also worked on television shows, like the NBC series, Who Do You ThinkYou Are?, where celebrities trace their heritage.

Lately, though, she and other genealogists are researching the origin stories ofimmigration hardliners. They have found that many of the staunchest critics of illegal immigration have ancestors who couldn't meet today's standards to enter the country. Some couldn't meet the standards of the time period when theyarrived, but found a way in anyway. For example, Smolenyak discovered that the grandfather of Rep. Bob Goodlattelied during his naturalization process. He was still given citizenship. Goodlatte, aVirginia Republican and the chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, hassaid he doesn't support a pathway to citizenship for "those who have broken our immigration laws."

"I've researched thousands of family trees and it's rare to find documentedinstances of immigration hiccups or problems," Smolenyak said. "And yet it keeps on coming up in the families of people who are trying to slam the doors of people trying to come here now."
Smolenyak, a Florida resident, took particular interest in DeSantis, who ran atongue-in-cheek ad in which he builds Trump's border wall out of blocks with hisyoung daughter. DeSantis is running against Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

Her research into DeSantis is timely. Another family tree recently gained nationalattention: that of Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump's immigration policies. Miller's uncle, David Glosser, published a widely circulated op-ed in Politico criticizing his nephew and noting that his own ancestors arrived with $8 and couldn't speak English.

Miller's family also likely benefited from what conservatives often decry as chainmigration, when one family member enters the country, allowing other familymembers to follow. One of Smolenyak's peers first discovered Miller's lineage. "These facts are important not only for their grim historical irony but becausevulnerable people are being hurt," Glosser wrote. "They are real people, not theghoulish caricatures portrayed by Trump." DeSantis has called for the end of chain migration, and has sided with Trump'sefforts to crack down on immigration through deportations and more border security. He has criticized legislation allowing a path to citizenship for those undocumented aliens already here. "It's a slap in the face to people who come legally," DeSantis said at a June debate.

Legal immigration by today's standards is not a fair comparison to those who came during the early 20th century, Smolenyak said. Yes, most came legally, she said, but they could enter through a port and the rules to enter were much more lax. Only 2 percent were turned away. Smolenyak contends that DeSantis's great great grandmother's immigration story is not all that different from those showing up at the southern border today. Many are leaving parts of Central and South America ravaged by conflict and violence. Luigia Colucci left Europe at the height of World War I. Emigration from Italy plummeted during the war, from more than 150,000 in 1914 to less than 18,000 in 1917, due to the threat of German submarines and other dangers.

Yet, Colucci, pregnant and joined by two teenage daughters, risked the journey. In the middle of winter, she boarded a steamliner named Patria and arrived in NewYork in late February. Because of her pregnancy, she was detained for a week before she and her daughters were allowed to join her husband in Pennsylvania.

Salvatore Storti, her husband, had been in the United States since 1904. There isno record of him returning to Italy. Smolenyak wonders: Would Luigia's journey more than a decade after her husband arrived be considered chain migration by today's Republican Party? Would conservative hardliners call the child she gave birth to in the United Statesan "anchor baby"? The goal of her research isn't to shame a politician or to declare "gotcha!" Smolenyak said. Rather, she hopes the subject can better see the human cost of theimmigration debate.

"Many of people I research are beneficiaries of an immigration system that waskind of flexible and forgave little mistakes. If anything you would think they would be a little more compassionate," Smolenyak said. "That's what I'm trying to do,say, 'Look, this happened in your own family. Put yourself in their shoes and think about the people coming here today.'"

Profile Information

Member since: Fri Jun 30, 2017, 04:41 PM
Number of posts: 2,260
Latest Discussions»NCDem47's Journal