December 11, 2012

Was the Libertarian darling an Illegal Immigrant?

In 1926 a young woman with the birth name Alisa Rozenbaum immigrated to America from Soviet Russia. In order for Alisa to obtain a passport and the tourist visa that she used to travel to America, she had to resort to illegal means. She had to become a criminal. Alisa and her family spent years and expended great effort convincing U.S consular officials that she was only visiting America for holiday, and that she would return to Russia so she could marry her fiancĂ©… a fellow Russian citizen.

So what were her crimes? Under American law this young lady perjured herself in sworn statements and interviews. She also made false statements to government officials and deliberately falsified documents. Therefore Alisa’s passport and all visas were obtained illegally and therefore were invalid. She was coming to America as an illegal immigrant, and she knew it. 

Of course it was to her great benefit... a benefit she no doubt understood, that in the 20’s immigrants from Soviet ruled states were seldom prosecuted for whatever criminal actions they had employed while "escaping" the clutches of the communists and migrating to the U.S.

So Alisa entered America in 1926 as what today would be an "illegal immigrant." Some on the right still dispute this fact, but it was was made manifestly true three years later when her tourist visa expired and she remained in country. We know this to be true because we know Alisa’s passport and visa were issued on October 29, 1925, and we know that both had a three year expiration. At that time in our history extensions were just not granted.

Alisa never returned to Russia... never saw her family again. She never planned to. It is of interest to note that some modern day Libertarian cultists insist that Alisa defected. Some insist that she was issued only a 6-month passport. This is proven incorrect by her own statements, both in her testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee and later in series of recorded interviews with biographer Barbara Branden (whose husband Nathaniel later became one of Alisa’s many illicit lovers). It was in these interviews where Alisa unabashedly admits to her immigration violations.

Both her passport and visa expired sometime before October 29, 1928. Because of all of the deception employed to obtain the passport and gain entry into America, Alisa was illegally in this country from the moment she stepped on U.S. soil, but from the day in 1928 when her passport expired until her 1929 marriage to an American citizen, she was doubly so. Alisa proudly admitted that her behavior was criminal. The right wingers know this and still accept her... they idolize her.

Alisa’s misdemeanors world have technically barred an immigrant from achieving citizenship, but marriage to an American opened the path. Laws have changed so that this is not true today. A 21st century Alisa would be jailed and deported, but in 1929 it was a common path to citizenship for old world immigrant girls to find an American sugar-daddy. Alisa was just using the system. It was behavior that would serve her well over the course of her lifetime.

Of course all of this was in the days before this constant din of hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric… when Americans were still capable of compassion... of conceptual thought... and when minor technicalities like violations of immigration law could be overlooked for the greater good. Today, because of the constant barrage of right wing hate-mongering Americans see immigrants not as a potential resource… but as a threat to be dealt with.

This is so ironic considering the pedestal upon which these same right-wingers have placed the illegal immigrant known as Alisa Rozenbaum.

Today such a story could not be written. It is modern neo-con mantra that illegal immigrants must be boxed up and deported en-mass, and that immigration reform will come only after the borders have been secured. Would be immigrants, even when not trying to enter the country by nefarious means, are viewed somehow as less than human... certainly less than American. U.S. Immigration services and consular officials are not expected to respect the rights of foreign nationals, and indeed are discouraged from such behavior.

Where Alisa met almost no resistance and later became an iconic figure in American political rhetoric, even would-be legal immigrants today could be subjected to years of legal limbo and arbitrary, humiliating subjection to bureaucratic song and dance. Under the systems and attitudes of today our Libertarian friends (and Paul Ryan) would be deprived of one of their most cherished icons.

Alisa (Alice) Rozenbaum… AKA Ayn Rand… would not be welcome in America today.