Immigration stories hit closer to home

Inspired by an open letter my friend Kim prepared for politicians, I started to think about some immigrants I have known in my life. My favorite was my dad, as well as my aunts and uncles from Greece, followed closely by my grandmother on my mother side, who came to America from a town in Germany or Hungary, depending on the political map of that day.

Never liked the idea of a “melting pot.” Felt you lost too much by “blending” into the “mainstream” of vanilla-flavoring. “Cultural diversity,” however, is what I believe has made America a shining light to the rest of the world.

Until the attacks. Not by terrorists from overseas. But those within our borders who so quickly forget that we are all relatives of immigrants, except for what we have labeled “Native Americans.” I guess it makes a person feel better to look down on someone else, particularly, one who doesn’t share the same language. Easy for them to erect stronger and higher borders to keep out the “less desirables.” Can’t have those with darker skins and funny-sounding lingo polluting our landscapes, fruit and vegetable orchards, or our janitorial services. No siree! Gotta keep those low-paying, non-union jobs for the less desirables we have within our borders now. What’s that you say? Us White Anglo-Saxon, Protestant (WASP) males are becoming the less desirables now? We’re going to be shipped to where? Did you say Alabama and Arizona? They’ll put a border around us to keep us in?


Open Letter to Alabama Gubernatorial Candidate Tim James, And Jan Brewer, the Governor of Arizona

 Dear Mr. James and Ms. Brewer,

When you have successfully rounded up all the Mexicans and run them out, I have to ask– who is going to pick our apples and grow our lettuce?  Who is going to clean our offices, and landscape our parks?    Who is going to run our Salsa clubs, and who is going to make our burritos?  I like Mexicans.

Pass the guacamole, please.




Did I ever tell you my father did time in Sing Sing, a prison that handled criminals from the New York area? He worked in a speakeasy. Got thrown out of New York by Knifewielding thugs who ordered him into back seat of a car, drove him across the state line, and threw him out advising him in the 1930s not to come back. All Achilles Contoveros did was date a chorus girl who was the “girlfriend of one “Lucky” Luciano.

Oh yeah! We believe “pop,” as we called him, may have “jumped ship” when he came to America from a poor island in Greece at the age 15. Had two social security numbers, I seem to recall, as well as two different dates of birth.

His alias was “Charlie West” to people he met working in the restaurant business in Philadelphia. No wonder I felt so comfortable representing criminal defendants in court. Felt like I was right at home.

Also want to  tell you of the Center City “groper” I represented? A young Mexican who rode a bike and would grab the butts of nice-looking women in center city Philadelphia until he touched the “tush” of an assistant district attorney (ADA) who wanted him to serve 1 to 2 years in jail for his “man-handling,” I mean, offensive behavior.

I got defendants off with less time who shot people, yet here was a career-climber, backed by government approval, not to mention sanctions, who wanted to make a point, I guess.

Never did like the way her butt looked. The ADA’s. Clearly not worth a single day in jail. Too skinny. Too bony. Lacked a certain sense of compassion. Her butt, that is. Here demeanor in Court too, when we found out about the fellow’s mental health problems.

But, that’s another story. His family retained a private lawyer, one who spoke Spanish, and I lost track of him. It’s a tale I have yet to put behind me.

michael j

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