In this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution, Heather interviews Irvin Omar from La Casa Dominicana on what the immigration process looks like now. He explains the stressful and time intensive process that could take as much as 20 years and cost thousands of dollars. The questions are biased and the whole process is subjective. Then he gives a historic example of the town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic, the only country to come out of the Avian France Conference and agree to accept Jewish Refugees during World War 2.
Irvin Omar 0:00
Intro Music. Something that I always like to give out my presentations. I like to give out sample questions.
Heather Warburton 0:04
I was going to ask you that exact thing. See if he can fail me out of being a citizen a few more times.
Irvin Omar 0:10
Yeah, so Yeah, I guess so the first question I’ll ask everybody and I’ll ask you is how tall is the Bunker Hill monument?
Heather Warburton 0:18
Not a clue, Not a bit of a clue. So I’ve already failed again
Irvin Omar 0:23
Its not looking too great.
Heather Warburton 0:31
This is Wine, Women, and Revolution, with your host Heather Warburton coming at you here on New Jersey Revolution Radio.
Hi, and welcome to Wine, Women, and Revolution. I’m your host Heather Warburton coming at you here on New Jersey Revolution Radio. You can find us online at www.njrevolutionradio. com, follow us on all the social medias and get us wherever you get your podcasts from. Today I want to talk about something that’s been kind of knocking around in my head for a while is what immigration really looks like today. You know, you hear so many people saying, and usually this is a cover for just being blatantly racist. But they say people need to do it like my grandparents did it. And they came here and did it legally. And what that actually meant back then versus what that means today are two completely different processes. So I have someone joining me here in the studio today. Irvin Omar, and he’s from La Casa Dominica, and Organization Azteca.
Irvin Omar 1:40
Heather Warburton 1:40
And you’re here today because you’re kind of an expert on this, you’re actually doing a speech about it was why I decided I wanted to have you come on. You were doing a speech out of Stockton about this very subject, right?
Irvin Omar 1:52
Yeah. So again, you know, my name is Irvin Omar Moreno Rodriguez. I for four names. But ya. No I don’t consider myself an expert. But in conjunction with La Casa Dominicana which translates into English to the Dominican house, there are nonprofit organization in Atlantic City, that they actually hold free naturalization and citizenship classes for people. Most of the people that take those classes are from Atlantic City. And so I’m one of the instructors for the course, again, it’s a three month, roughly three month period of time where students come after a long day of work, sometimes working six, seven days a week, they’ll come in a couple nights every week, to La Casa Dominicana, or sometimes we’ll hold classes at actually the Atlantic City Cape Community campus. And you know, we’ll talk about the naturalization process the citizenship process to become a naturalized US citizen. And you know, what it takes to become a citizen, you have to pass an exam, which is mostly oral. And, again, there’s some secret components to the exam, which I’ll be more than happy to elaborate on. But yeah, that’s what I do. And in doing this, I have to know my US history. Because I have to teach it and then familiarize myself with, with the process and the issues. And in familiarizing myself with the process, you learn about the immigration process of the United States. Yeah.
Heather Warburton 3:25
So historically, you know, when people think about Ellis Island, you know, that’s, I think, the image that usually conjured in most people, what did the immigration process look like, back in those days when people were coming in through Ellis Island?
Irvin Omar 3:41
Well, basically, if you were coming in through Ellis Island, so 1892 to 1954, millions of people came through Ellis Island, and you were stopped for basically two reasons. Reason number one, you look sick. So they would, you know, they would put you in an infirmary, and they would check you out. And if you passed, you know, their tests, and you pass through physical exams, then you would be allowed into the country. If you didn’t, you’d be deported. The second reason you would be detained and possibly deported back to your country is if you exhibited any kind of symptoms of mental illness. And of course, at that time, our understanding of mental illness was very different. I don’t think that at all. And, you know, that should be an issue of why you should be deported it but you know, but, of course, our understanding of mental illness back then was was an issue. But those are the two main reasons why you were stopped, detained, and possibly deported back to your country.
Heather Warburton 4:46
So you got on a boat or whatever, from anywhere. You didn’t have to say anything before you got here.
Irvin Omar 4:52
Heather Warburton 4:52
You got on a boat, you could even be a stowaway.
Irvin Omar 4:56
Yes, you could be a stowaway. I mean, it’s not. You know, the process. I hear it all the time, especially concerning issues of immigration today, right. Oh, my grandparents came here through Ellis Island. And that’s great. You know, I’m glad that you know, America had its doors open for that period of time. And obviously, there are some issues with that. Because, you know, especially when Congress enacted the immigration code is 1924. You know, this is right before World War Two and the refugee crisis of the Jews during you know, before World War Two and during it’s nice that they could say that, but there are issues, there are complexities, it’s not the same. Because, you know, it was it was less stringent back then. And then obviously, you had these quotas that Congress sent. And, you know, you had you had racism, which, you know, obviously, worked its way into our political system. And that stopped a lot of undesirables, quotations undesirables from entering our country. And so, you know, just what else what I’ll tell people is just, you know, I hate using the word Wikipedia, but you know, go on Wikipedia, it’ll tell you, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s very clear, you know, look, go do a simple Google search about our immigration system. It’s not secret, right. You know, there. There’s a it’s a complex history, but you can’t compare the immigration system today for from the immigration system from 1924.
Heather Warburton 6:24
Right, they’re totally separate. And you didn’t even necessarily have to give your real name some people because the person taking down their name, couldn’t pronounce her name, gave them a fake name
Irvin Omar 6:34
Changed their name
Heather Warburton 6:35
Changed their name, whether they wanted it or not,
Irvin Omar 6:37
Your name’s too complicated. So I’m just going to give you the name Smith there, you know, yeah, yeah, it’s an interesting history.
Heather Warburton 6:45
So let’s compare that to what the immigration system actually looks like. Now, if someone’s coming from another country, and they want to become an American citizen. What does this current process look like when somebody says Get in line?
Irvin Omar 6:58
Well, it’s a it’s a complicated process. So number one, you have to fill out a form that’s labeled the N400. And that’s a form that is available for free online, you can, again, you could do a Google search, you can actually look at the form yourself. It comes as a PDF document. And that’s a form that you have to fill out for the Department of Homeland Security. Ultimately, you know, that’s, that’s where it goes. And that N400, It’s not easy. You know, it’s not easy. I’ve, you know, I’ve been through background checks for a variety of, you know, jobs that I’ve held in my career, they’re asking you, you know, what, the N400 application, they’re asking you some crazy questions like, Where did you work for the past five years, you know, where have you lived? And they’re asking for all these records, you know, where have you worked, and unfortunately, you know, a lot of these people, they’ve, they work multiple jobs. So, you know, you’re forcing them to look into all these different jobs. And one particular case of someone that I worked with in Atlantic City, they worked at the Ginsburg Bakery. They closed down years ago, you know, so how can we find these records and prove that they were actually working? And of course, now you have this, this burden, sort of clause that the Trump administration has sort of put forth, you know, not to be a burden on our society? Right. And so how do you prove like, for example, you know, this, this lady worked the Ginsburg Bakery for five years, how do we prove that? Who do we ask?
Heather Warburton 8:33
Right? There’s really no way to prove something that went out of business or no, one’s keeping those records for them.
Irvin Omar 8:39
No one, no one, you know, and so, and then some of the questions on the N400 are just absolutely ridiculous. I urge everyone, to if you want a good laugh, go through the application. And get to the question about asking you whether you’re a communist, asking you whether you’re an anarchist.
Heather Warburton 8:57
Which I am, by the way.
Irvin Omar 8:59
So, they’ll ask if you’re a communist. They’ll ask you, if you’re an anarchist. They’ll ask you if you’ve ever had thoughts about or actions about overthrowing a government?
Heather Warburton 9:08
Yeah, I have
Irvin Omar 9:09
They’ll ask you if you were a Nazi, which, obviously, with Operation Paperclip, and, you know, some of the Nazi German scientists that helped NASA, obviously, that N400, did not work because they would have lied on it. Yeah, they’ll ask you these ridiculous questions. And you’re just like, well, what if I answer Yeah, like, you know, what? It? And it’s just
Heather Warburton 9:33
What if someone did say, Yes, I’m a communist, does that make you not get into the country?
Irvin Omar 9:38
I don’t know. You know, that’s a good question. I’ve never had anybody. For all the applications that I’ve helped with and sorted through. I’ve never had anyone really answer that. Yes. But it’d be interesting to see what would happen. So I guess this is a call for anybody out there. If you’ve ever put Yes, on the N400 applications that you are a communist? Let us know what happened.
Heather Warburton 10:02
Yeah, reach out to us here at NJRR. We’re curious to see if that could make you not be able to get into the country just for your political beliefs.
Irvin Omar 10:09
Of course, of course. Yeah. They’ll ask you. I mean, are you a communist anarchist, I’m trying to think of some of the more ridiculous questions. They’ll ask you if you’re mentally competent to fill out the N400 application, which if you couldn’t understand the application, understand how you would even try to apply?
Heather Warburton 10:28
Irvin Omar 10:28
Heather Warburton 10:30
So let’s say we get through this application, this long tedious application.
Irvin Omar 10:35
Very tedious. Yes. So now, before this, there are companies or businesses, in Atlantic County, in Atlantic City in New Jersey, all over the country, that will help you fill out this form. And the problem is, they’ll charge you couple hundred dollars to help you fill out this form. Now, the N402, submitted alone will cost you $700 or $800. That includes the actual application, and a biometric fee. This is something that the government charges you to take your fingerprints. So you’re paying for that. And now you’re paying somebody else to help you fill out this application.
Heather Warburton 11:24
So we could be up around $1,000 easily?
Irvin Omar 11:26
Easily, very easily. And not not even counting the time, you’ve already wasted looking for all this information that they’re asking you there. Your W2s, Your employment history, they’ll ask you about all the times that you’ve left the country. And they’re very strict about that as well. But so and then not only that, what I’ve noticed with in looking through applications, and I use them in class, because they’ll question you from your application to see if you’re lying. So what I’ve noticed is that, you know, unfortunately, these businesses aren’t filling out these N400 applications correctly. You know, sometimes they’ll make the mistake of putting the applicant is divorced or married. And when it comes down to the interview, they’re going to ask them, are you divorced or married? And they don’t know how to answer that question, because their application, which has been approved, says that they’re divorced. But then if they answered it, they’re married. Now they’re lying.
Heather Warburton 12:21
Right? And the companies obviously aren’t standing behind their product they are producing.
Irvin Omar 12:26
Yes, so those are some of the issues that we’re facing alone, we haven’t even technically really filed the application at this point. And so after you file the application, have gotten all the requisite paperwork in then it’s the waiting game. Now in Atlantic County alone, we’ve been pretty good, I will say that there’s a there’s an office in Mount Laurel for for the citizenship application. So that’s where people go and and, and do their interviews or exams. And that’s where they find out if they become citizens. But so Atlantic County, in general has been really good with the process, I will say that. But we see these horror stories from across the country, particularly Texas, Florida, California. I mean, they’re waiting months years for this application to go through. So at that point, is just a waiting game, and could be very, a lot of issues present themselves in just waiting, because, for example, I just had a couple whose parents, one of their parents passed away, and they had to leave the country, you know, and there are restrictions, because you can’t leave the country for more than six months. But if you have your entire family, and you’re dealing with issues, you know, unfortunately, they pass that threshold, and they have to start the application process all over again.
Heather Warburton 13:49
And they have to pay all the fees again, and and that’s just for someone that was already here on like a work visa or some kind of a visa.
Irvin Omar 13:57
Yeah, residency there. A lot of them are green card holders. They’re residents for the most part.
Heather Warburton 14:04
But getting that green card is also quite a process
Irvin Omar 14:07
Heather Warburton 14:08
To get to that point, that there’s a backstory, you don’t just start with this form.
Irvin Omar 14:11
Yes, yes. So I mean, you’re talking about years, I mean, at least 10, 20 years.
Heather Warburton 14:18
Really, like from being in another country and deciding I want to move to America and become a resident, there could be a 20 year process.
Irvin Omar 14:26
Of course, of course. You know, depending on unfortunately, people working here, the people that I work with, you know, their priority, for as much as they want to become a US citizen, their priority is feeding their family, right? It’s, it’s working those six, seven days, particularly in the hospitality industry, with the casinos in Atlantic City. As I mean, I have people crying to me, they’re like, you know, I really want to learn English. And I know a little bit of it, but it I just come home, and I can’t I can’t focus on anything, because I have to get up at five, you know, four or five in the morning and do these things. So it could be a long process, a very long process. It’s definitely not tailored to people who you know, work for most, for most of their lives. Yeah.
Heather Warburton 15:15
Well, I guess that was the question I would ask next is can money speed it up? Like, is there a class system in immigration that if you come into it with a lot of money from another country? Does that process get expedited for you? And does the country you’re coming from are having an effect on the length of that process as well?
Irvin Omar 15:36
So I’ve heard of there, there is a way you can buy citizenship. If you’ve heard, I don’t remember the name of the program. But you may have heard about it in the news. There are these companies, particularly in China, that will essentially, if you can prove that you’ve invested a certain amount in the United States, and created like ten full time jobs for a certain amount of time, I think maybe two years, one or two years. But if you can prove that, then your citizenship becomes expedited. And obviously the people that I work with have they don’t have that financial resource? So yes, there there is a way to buy US citizenship, of course, the government will not put it that way. But yes, there is a way and it is happening.
Heather Warburton 16:27
And if someone didn’t have someone like you instructing them through the process, which you know, thank you for doing that. But you know, some people don’t have access, they don’t live in Atlantic County, they don’t even know how to get these resources. It must be an insurmountable challenge for someone with without any real person guiding them or helping them.
Irvin Omar 16:47
Yeah, it could be it can be very nerve wracking. And I will tell you this story, and I tell it all the time. I it was when I first started out as an instructor. And, you know, I don’t like to fail. My students are coming back, I thought I was doing everything right. You know, I start my classes I started talking about from the first people that walked onto the American continent, right. And then I just go from there, because I believe people, you know, love to visually see things and they love to hear these stories. And at the end of the day, when I talk about George Washington being out first president, that will never be as captivating as me talking about the American Revolution. And what George Washington did. And obviously, there are problems with what he did. And you know, but
Heather Warburton 17:33
American history is just a trainwreck. We are a country built on exploitation and murder.
Irvin Omar 17:38
Yes, you know, and you know, what’s interesting, too, is, you know, I talk about slavery and the ramifications of it. You talk about civil rights, and it’s, it’s all really interconnected. And it makes for a very interesting class. But when I first started teaching it, I thought I was doing a good job. The results weren’t showing it. They, my students were coming back, and they were failing the exam. And so I really got, I just started talking about one on one, I was like, What could I have done better? Was it me? Was it something that I said, maybe I’m not communicating properly? And they’re like, you know what, at the end of the day, I’m sorry, teacher, they teacher a lot, I’m sorry, teacher, but I was just too nervous.
And so I was like, Okay, so then I added a new component to the class, which is basically how to calm down during the exam, okay, and to sort of get yourself to where you need to be. So, you know, I’ll teach I’ll teach them about, you know, how to position yourself, you know, you sit up straight, you you act confidently, you lower your heart rate. If you feel yourself, not, you know, thinking clearly, or you’re stuttering, or you can’t think of the answer, ask him to repeat it. That’s my biggest cheat. And for anybody listening, that’s my secret, when someone when you can’t understand the question, or you need more time to think, very simple. I say could you please repeat that.
And so once I started adding that component to the class where I sit them down, literally, like we are right now. And you know, they don’t know me, I tell them, they don’t know me, I don’t know you, I’m going to give you the actual exam, I want to sit you down, you know, and and, and actually go through some of the like the decorum of what’s going on, then they start a path, I’d like to talk about the oral exam for the for the US citizenship exam. But really, what I tell my students is, the exam starts as soon as they say hello to you. As soon as they say hello to you, and bring you into the room and sit you down. They’re already asking you questions they’re trying to figure out, if you can understand the English language, if you can understand basic instructions, they’ll ask you about your commute. Who did you come with? You know, who’s here with you? How’s the weather? Is it cold outside? Is a warm outside? Can you sit down? Can you raise your right hand? Can you repeat after me? And this is even before the first question is even asked, right?
Heather Warburton 20:10
By this point, right, I’ve already failed twice since you’ve been here.
Irvin Omar 20:15
Right? So um, you know, and that’s really what I test my students on, you know, they can memorize the questions, and that’s great. But I told him, it’s that first impression that really counts. And unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, if somebody is not prepared in that aspect with the exam, unfortunately, they’ll fail the exam, because now the testing officer isn’t going to give them the chance. And it’s all subjective. And that’s the problem with these exams.
They’re all subjective, who, you know, whoever you have that day, if they’ve had a bad day, you don’t know where they’re coming from, maybe they had an argument with their spouse, maybe they got into a car accident in the beginning of the day, they’re running late, you know, we’re all humans, you know. So you never know who you’re going to get that day. And it’s all subjective. Because at the end of the day, everybody hears about these hundred questions that can be asked on the exam. And there’s a pool of 100 questions that these testing officers can pull to test you on. Now, something that I always like to give out my presentations, I like to give out sample questions.
Heather Warburton 21:23
I was going to ask that exact thing. See if he can fail me out a few more times.
Irvin Omar 21:29
Yeah, so I guess so the first question I’ll ask everybody. And I’ll ask you is how tall is the Bunker Hill monument?
Heather Warburton 21:37
Not a clue.
Irvin Omar 21:38
You have no idea?
Heather Warburton 21:39
Not a bit of a clue
Irvin Omar 21:41
Its not looking too great, but you know, actually, so it’s around 200 feet, I think 227 feet?
Heather Warburton 21:49
But that’s a ridiculous question. Like, what does that have to do with anything?
Irvin Omar 21:52
Well, so it’s not one of the questions in the hundred.
Heather Warburton 21:56
Irvin Omar 21:56
But it’s a talking point for me, because in the the early stages of naturalization, naturalization, and citizenship in the United States, you know, you would have to go in front of a local municipal judge. Right. That’s how it was structured, you would have to go to in front of a local judge and present your, your case to become a citizen. And I’ve had issues with local judges, I’m sure you have. So yeah, I mean, a variety of judges all across the United States, were now in charge of, you know, giving you your citizenship. And it’s really funny, because one of the questions that they love to ask, they love to ask trick question. So one of the questions that they like to ask, if they don’t want you to become a US citizen was how tall was the Bunker Hill monument? Right. And so obviously, that change with, you know, in the 1960s, with the, you know, US Customs Enforcement, and then obviously, a lot of that changed, after 911, you know, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. But yeah, the test, you know, it has a semi structure to it, there are 100 questions that you can ask, but it’s still completely subjective, completely subjective,
Heather Warburton 23:15
Because ultimately, the person that’s grading you is the one who’s grading you there saying whether you pass or fail.
Irvin Omar 23:21
And you know, I’ve had students and
Heather Warburton 23:22
Can you appeal this, or?
Irvin Omar 23:24
You have two chances to take the exam. And, and there is an appeal process. But at that time, from my experience working with the community, people were so dejected. They just let it go. They let it go. And I for as much as I tell them, keep going. Let’s appeal this. I had a I had one case a couple months ago. Oh, right. So it was one of my students that went to take the exam. And this was her. Maybe her second chance because I don’t think she took it after that. And the the testing officer in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, told her you know, if you came home, and stopped washing, watching your Spanish soap operas, your dramas, and you put a little bit more time into, you know, the actually practicing for the exam, and not watching TV, and those Spanish dramas then you would have passed today.
Heather Warburton 24:28
Well, that’s super racist, for one thing.
Irvin Omar 24:31
Extremely racist. And she told me this, and I could not believe it. I was like, are you effing kidding me? I was like, Who says that? Like, who in their right mind says that?
Heather Warburton 24:44
And this is somebody who’s deciding on someone’s immigration status.
Irvin Omar 24:47
Right, right. And I’m just like, and I was like, you know, we can fight it. Let me take it to the news, you know, let me let me you know, talk to some of our lawmakers, let’s, let’s get this out there. And, obviously, there are issues with that, right, and you want to respect people’s privacy. And, you know, unfortunately, she was just left heartbroken, then. And this is someone who, you know, work six, seven days a week, you know, and, and for them to even show up to my class after work, you know. I like to complain, you know, I’m, you know, busy or I’m tired, but these people really run, you know, keep Atlantic City afloat, and they’re showing up to my class, and they’re taking notes. And it just, it’s such an emotional process. But when I heard that I was so angry, and just shows you the subjectivity. Just because people may not be open about it. But they can tell you whatever they want, you know, oh, you failed, or, you know, for anything for anything. And again, this is this is the process, this is what we deal with. Yeah.
Heather Warburton 25:53
Yeah. So first off any of the people who have ever said, Oh, make you people have to do it the right way. A) stop being a dickhead. You know, when your grandparents stowed away on a steam shipand showed up and said their name was John Smith, this is not what’s going on, you’re being an asshole when you say that, understand this process and have a little fucking compassion.
Irvin Omar 26:22
Yeah, it’s, and it’s really funny, because, you know, I don’t like to respond to those types of people, you know, or trolls, but I do like to educate whenever possible. And I, you should just show them, you know, these people are working six, seven days a week, you know, they’re not your, well, you know, for the most part, the people that I work, they’re not, you know, they’re not like nine to five type people that work Monday through Friday and have Saturdays and Sundays off. And then, you know, everything’s taken care of, for them, you know, they’re mothers, I mean, that are working in the house keeping industry in Atlantic City that have to come home and still feed their kids. Some of them are even single mothers who have a family to take care of, I just don’t know how to get someone to understand that helping people is what you should be doing.
Heather Warburton 27:14
Right? How do you make somebody care about people?
Irvin Omar 27:17
Right, I don’t know how to, I don’t know how to tell you that, you know, and, and, you know, this, this immigration is, is, is so politicized. And, you know, something that I actually wanted to talk to you all tonight about is, you know, you and I talked about the immigration quotas for 1924 that Congress sent forth. And this is something that FDR was actually dealing with, during the Great Depression. And during World War Two, now, Nazi Germany sort of started intensifying their persecution of the Jews. Right. As soon as you know, even before Hitler’s ascended, you know, into power, you know, and then afterwards, there were these laws, you know, they didn’t just outright kill the Jews, they it was sort of, kind of like an elevated approach.
You know, at first they, you know, they banned them from working in the government, they banned them from hospitals, they banned Jewish children from public schools, then come the Nuremberg Lawswhere they stripped Jews of their citizenship, right. And so now you have this refugee crisis of Jewish people in Nazi Germany. Now, this is approximately 500,000 Jews in Nazi Germany that now are stateless, basically. And, and so you know, you have the world and other countries, particularly FDR, trying to do something about it, really. And unfortunately, the way the political system worked at that point, and the Southern Democrats and all that stuff, if FDR even tried to push something like, you know, accepting more Jewish refugees, who knows if he would have continued being president, you know, unfortunately, that was sort of the nationalist or, you know, racist, xenophobic, you know, sentiments that were still in the country, particularly after the Great Depression, right.
And so you had the 500,000 Jews of Nazi Germany now stateless, and then the annexation of Austria, which there was 190,000 more Jews in Austria that now were stateless, or they were in a refugee status. And so FDR, actually called a conference in, in Avian France, and 32 countries participated. FDR was not there. But 32 countries participated in Avion France, July 6th through the July 15 1935, I believe. So 32 countries participants, and the question was, what do we do with the Jewish problem, right? What do we do with these refugees? And you see the same old arguments, you know, oh, it’s going to hurt our economy. It’s gonna, you know, they’re just going to bring, they’re going to bring drugs, right? They’re gonna, they’re rapists, right? They’re criminals. They’re gonna affect our population, you know, they’re gonna, they’re going to cause more crime. And you see these same arguments. And so after the Avian Conference, right, you had 32 countries trying to figure out what to do with the Jews in Germany and Austria. And no, none of the countries took in any Jewish refugees. But one! One country did believe it or not, the Dominican Republic, at that point, agreed after the Avion conference, to take in between 50,000 to 100,000 Jewish refugees.
Heather Warburton 30:56
And the Dominican Republic, not a huge country
Irvin Omar 30:58
Not a huge country. So in and there are issues with that, because at that point, the Dominican Republic was under the dictatorship of General Trujillo. Nickname, El Jeffe which in Spanish means the boss, some historians will debate and argue that General Trujillo actually decided to accept these Jewish refugees in order to be back in the good graces of the United States government, to you know, renegotiate economic treaties and all that stuff. But so they decided to accept these, you know, 50 to 100,000 Jewish refugees. And so, a year later, the process begins between different nonprofit organizations United States as a representative and the Dominican Republic and General Trujillo to sort of come up with a game plan to sign these agreements and to bring the Jews to the Dominican Republic. And General Trujillo. You know, one of the reasons I said for being so accepting of these Jewish refugees was the fact that, you know, obviously, he wanted to, you know, be good with the United States, right? And then so now, the, one of the other reasons is, he wanted to “whiten” the population of the Dominican Republic, it goes back to the murder of the Haitians. Right. And that mass atrocity and, and, you know, him thinking that if you bought brought in all these white Jewish refugees in Dominican Republic, it would whiten the population.
Its almost a little bit of eugenics.
Yes, well, eugenics was at work in the entire country at that point. I mean, it’s, but we digress, but so and then, so he thought it would whiten the population, then, you know, thirdly, he thought that, you know, bringing in these Jewish refugees, they would bring in money to the economy, which, at that point, if you were a Jewish refugee leaving Nazi Germany, at most, you would be leaving Europe with $5, because they take your your possessions and your money, and then that was one of the conditions to leave, because at that point, you could leave, right, and then eventually, in 1941, the Nazis closed down the borders, and nobody could leave.
So. And that was the issue, because they agreed to these hundred thousand, you know, refugees. And so eventually, only around 600 to 700 Jewish refugees were able to make it to the Dominican Republic to a town that they actually founded and settled in. Sosua ,beautiful, beautiful place, you know, beautiful crystal clear beaches, you know, all that stuff. So, Sosua in the Dominican Republic, became the first town settled completely by Jewish refugees in the world. And so, you know, they wanted more refugees to come in, and they wanted more settlers. But unfortunately, again, the Nazis closed down the borders in 1941, I think, October 1941. And then the United States entered World War Two, and so you had submarine warfare in the Atlantic Ocean. And that, you know, that in itself, you know, impacted the refugees trying to come into Dominican Republic, I think it slowed it down to at least 50 refugees every year that were able to escape to the Dominican Republic. And then Dominican Republic alone gave out thousands of visas. So if they didn’t escape to the Dominican Republic, they went somewhere else, anywhere that they could.
And so, you have this town, Sosua, and and to make a long story short, I mean, if you look at any of the interviews from the Jews who settled at Sosua, I mean, they talk about it, you know, it was the first couple years of struggle, because it was sort of like a, like, put sort of like a socialist structure, everybody had their job. And they did, you know, they worked and they together, none of the first homes that Sosua had a had a had a kitchen, so they ate like a communal style. And then they sort of changed the structure to like a capitalist structure. So then people could own their private lands and their private businesses. And then eventually, there was this, this dairy industry that appeared out of Sosua, which until today supplies the Dominican Republic, with their dairy products.
And so we have this wonderful, wonderful example, they like to call it an experiment at that time. So this wonderful example of what happens when a country takes in refugees 1, right willingly. And 2 the beauty of the Dominican people who work I mean, you have the stories of the Dominican people helping out the people in Sosua, you know, one of the requisites for entering Sosua was that you had to have like a farming or agricultural background, right. But what they didn’t understand was the Jews, particularly in Germany, you know, their land was taken away, then they have no rights to land. So they have these, this agricultural, you know, farming background. So, you know, so there was those issues, and they struggled for the first couple years, but you have the Dominican people that were so willing to help them out and work with them and work in this settlement, and they, their children went to the same schools.
And there’s really, there’s this really beautiful picture, if anybody has a chance to use Google to search it. Of children in Sosua in a school, and you have the settler, the children of settlers in lederhosen, and then you have the Dominican flags in the back. And you would think you would pick up this picture and be like, what is this picture? Like? It doesn’t make sense. But if you know the story of Sosua, then it makes sense. And so, you know, they eventually, you know, they, they moved away. And, you know, a lot of them weren’t farmers, so it was it was a forming sort of town. So they, you know, they did what they had to during the war years, and then they went, you know, off to the United States, you know, to go to actual, like, you know, businesses, a lot of a lot of people, there were business people, so they went back to United States or back to Europe, you know, to start some more businesses. And so, but you still have around 25 Jewish families there, in Sosua
Heather Warburton 37:21
it really shows a very direct contrast to what the rest of the world was doing at that time.
Irvin Omar 37:27
Heather Warburton 37:28
And, you know, I think bringing up and discussing Nazi Germany is an apt comparison to some of you know, the policies that are being enacted in the US now with the stripping of the rights. And, you know, it’s a terrifying march to watch the right, you know, the alt-right in the United States marching us towards fascism.
Irvin Omar 37:50
Yeah, something that I can’t understand, to your point is just this rise of neo naziism and fascism in this country. The Nazis were the bad guys, I don’t know if anybody’s hearing this, but the Nazis were not good people. So to associate yourself with that particular group, or those ideas, or that ideology, doesn’t make sense to me, sort of like this, you know, the what Southern heritage, the Confederate flag, and that’s flown, I was driving. Actually, I was driving down the Expressway a couple days ago. And I see this confederate flag on the dashboard. And I’m just like, why? Like, why would what is the what is your reasoning for? For showing?
Heather Warburton 38:40
I mean, you know, the reasoning.
Irvin Omar 38:42
Heather Warburton 38:42
We all know the reasoning, Its a specific message to people who look a certain way. Right. That’s the reasoning.
Irvin Omar 38:50
Yeah. And, and just, it just, it just baffles me, you know, but yeah, But to your point, I mean, if anybody has the time and actually do some, some presentations on Sosua, and if you ever in the Atlantic County area, or Atlantic City, you know, feel free to come by and most of my, all my presentations are open to the public, free and open to the public. Because I think that’s how we get forward in this country, right is to educate, and I want people to know the story of Sosoa because it, it completely destroys all these arguments that that people have, right. And, and it shows what happens when we’re actually willing to work with each other to better the world and to help people out.
Heather Warburton 39:33
It’s almost like immigrants are good for community. Wow, who would have thought that having diversity is a good thing.
Irvin Omar 39:38
Right. And that, you know, I don’t know, immigrants commit less crime than, you know, regular citizens in a country. You know, there’s not, you know, hundreds of studies that show that, you know, but it’s Yes, you know, and it just, it strains me, and it really upsets me, when people politicize this, likw, you know, again, it just comes on, I don’t know what to tell you, or how to show you to help people, you know. Yeah.
Heather Warburton 40:09
All right. Well, it’s about time for us to wrap it up. But can you tell people if they want to follow you or any of these organizations you’re a part of, or if they want to attend any of your presentations? How can they find these organizations?
Irvin Omar 40:20
Yeah, so again, La Casa Dominicana, if you type that up on Facebook, like the page, we’re always looking for more instructors, so you can definitely, you know, reach out to them. And then, you know, again, La Organization Azteca, to they do a lot of cultural events in Atlantic City, they’re more geared towards like, Mexican culture and heritage and in Atlantic City, and they do some amazing things in the summer. In Atlantic City. They do like a rodeo. They do festivals
Heather Warburton 40:50
Ans that organization is through out the state? Organization Azteca?
Irvin Omar 40:53
Well. It’s South Jersey, primarily South Jersey, but they’re there. You know, we all work together and all that stuff. So we cross promote across you know, you know, we do things in Philly as well. At least for me, I’ve I don’t know, I know, people if you go on Google, search my name. I know. That’s how a lot of people found my previous presentation that I had a couple days ago. But ya know, I, obviously if you want to speak with me, Heather, I’m sure you know, you can.
Heather Warburton 41:21
Yeah, you can reach out to me at NJRR. And I’ll help you get in contact if you’re looking for you know, to become a citizen. If you’re looking to take a class. Yeah, reach out to me. I’ll get you in touch with you get in touch with you,
Irvin Omar 41:34
Please. Yes, if you need help, if you have any questions, um, I don’t consider myself an expert, but I will help you till I can no longer help you.
Heather Warburton 41:43
Well, thank you so much for being here. And thank you so much for everything you do.
Irvin Omar 41:46
No, thank you. Thank you for having me.
Heather Warburton 41:47
To my listeners, I hope you got some good education too. I learned a lot today. I you know, I thought I was fairly well versed on a lot of this stuff. But I learned quite a bit. So I’m assuming you guys also got some really good information about this. And when you’re talking to these people, you can really be like. No, everything you’re saying is wrong. And here’s the truth of behind what you’re saying. And you know, sometimes it’s good just to have some ammo when you go into these discussions. I mean, the other person you’re talking to may not much care about your ammo, but still, it’s good to have ammo, and you can list facts and say, A, B, C, D, here’s all the reasons you’re wrong.
Thank you guys so much for joining me today. I we would not be here. If it were not for you guys. New Jersey Revolution Radio is here to be a voice for the activist community for the change makers, for the people that the mainstream media is not covering. And we take no corporate money here on New Jersey Revolution Radio. That’s why we have to keep asking you guys if you can go on to our website, www.njrevolutionradio.com and click on that Donate button. Even if it’s only a couple of dollars a month, it really helps us so that Brian and I aren’t paying for everything out of pocket. You know, we there’s a lot of things we want to do in the state we want to hire writers, we want to hire reporters, and you know, be able to pay people a good wage for contributing. And we can’t do it without you guys, thank you so much for joining us the future is to create go out there and create it