In my family, they say that Abuelo Abraham Saenz, wearing his WWI U.S. Army uniform, “smuggled” one of his sisters (photo, above) into the country via the Port of Philadelphia, wrapping the girl up in a fur coat so she looked like a rich lady.
The scheme was “dress to impress” so the MIGRA wouldn’t think to question her bonafides. She was illiterate, the story goes, and that wasn’t kosher for poor Jewish would-be immigrants from Ukraine in the early 1900s. The rich bitch trick worked, my great aunt got through immigration and everyone lived happily ever after.
Our family story, it turns out, isn’t unique. There were poor Jews who sneaked across the Mexican border near El Paso, and families smuggled in the cargo holds of ships packed with illegal Cuban rum during Prohibition.
Tablet Magazine explains:
Mas…American Jews: Maybe your grandparents were ‘illegals’ too (audio)