September 17, 2006

'The U.S. vs. John Lennon'

by Jon Wiener
John Lennon and the Politics of Deportation, From Nixon to Bush
If Bush has dramatically increased the number of foreigners denied entry into the U.S. for political reasons, Nixon pointed the way with Lennon. But Nixon was hardly the first to use American immigration law to deport "undesirable" radicals who weren't citizens.

Wartime has often seen efforts to silence antiwar activists, and Lennon's case has some uncanny parallels to opponents of the U.S. entry into World War I. The anarchist leader Emma Goldman was deported in 1919 after speaking out against World War I and in favor of anarchism. She was an immigrant who became a citizen but had been stripped of her citizenship in 1908 on the grounds that she was an anarchist. That made her subject to deportation under the Sedition Act of 1918, which gave the federal government the power to declare noncitizens "undesirable aliens" and deport them. Thousands of other antiwar radicals were deported along with her. (The same law included a wholesale attack on freedom of speech--it made it a crime to use "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the government, the flag or the military forces during war, and it banned antiwar publications from the mail.)


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