Monday, May 28, 2018

Nunes Pretends To Be 100% Portuguese But He Isn't... There's One Antecedent Named Robert Mueller


I once had a financial advisor, long ago, who told me he would vote for Cuomo to be president because he would be the first Italian-American president. He had no idea what Cuomo was about politically, just that he was of Italian heritage, like the financial advisor. It made me question his judgment and wonder if he was the right person for me to be working with. I remember once, as a small child, my grandmother making it clear to me that her loyalty to Israel was as strong as her loyalty to the U.S. I was horrified and it stuck with me-- viscerally-- for 6 decades.

More recently, I was disgusted with a primitive American politician-- who used to falsely claim he was Swedish-- bragging on TV how his German blood was "great stuff."

On Saturday, Megan Smolenyak, one of America's top genealogists took a look at Devin Nunes' family tree and gasped at Nunes' divided loyalties between Portugal and the U.S., asking Why Hasn’t Devin Nunes Assimilated Yet? I gather that would got her interested in Nunes was Jason Zengerle’s New York Times Magazine feature, How Devin Nunes Turned the House Intelligence Committee Inside Out, which didn't delve too much into genealogy, just Nunes' shady politics. But... "a healthy chunk of Zengerle’s exploration is devoted to the California congressman’s ties to Portugal and his curious efforts to establish American intelligence operations at Lajes Field on the Azorean island of Terceira, despite the notion being deemed impractical by many in the upper echelons of the U.S. government. Zengerle cites the frustration of those caught in the middle of Nunes’s agenda, like Jim Townsend, who served under President Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Europe and NATO:
“Nunes created so much rancor over the issue that some American officials came to question his motives, and even his patriotism. “I was having a hard-enough time being beaten up by the Azoreans and the Portuguese, but it was even harder seeing a congressman being in cahoots with them,” Townsend says. “It was like, ‘Whose team are you on?’ ” A former Pentagon official suspects that during the Lajes negotiations, Nunes was making the Portuguese privy to things they should not have known. “We would have a conversation about some proprietary matters with Nunes,” this official says, “and then the next day, somehow, Portugal knew some of that.” It’s no secret that Nunes is of Portuguese --  more specifically, Azorean --  descent, so why should this grab my attention--  aside from the fact that it would be peculiar behavior for any congressional representative and that the President of Portugal namechecked Nunes in a chat with Trump even before his inauguration?

Well, because his ties to Portugal are not as direct as many think.

Perhaps due to his communications director incorrectly claiming that all four of Nunes’s grandparents were Portuguese immigrants, many accept this as fact so you’ll find this tidbit sprinkled in many pieces about Nunes. But it’s not true. Let’s start with some basics that are:

One of his grandparents has no Portuguese ancestry. This portion of his family tree blew into California as a result of the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s, and meanders back in time through Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, Virginia, etc.

The remaining 75 percent of his heritage is indeed Azorean, but none of his grandparents were immigrants.

So if Nunes’s grandparents weren’t the immigrants, who were? It turns out it was a mix of his great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents.

For those keeping score, that’s a total of nine immigrant ancestors, but we should probably add a tenth with an asterisk. One of his great-grandmothers, Della Nevis, was American-born, but lost her citizenship when she married a foreigner thanks to the Expatriation Act of 1907 (the same happened to Representative Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) grandmother). The moment Nevis was wed, she became a Portuguese citizen, even though she was living in California.

People have different ways of defining immigrant generations, so depending on your interpretation, Nunes is a combination of either third/fourth generation or fourth/fifth generation American. Now take a look at that last column in the table above. His Azorean ancestors all arrived in the States between 1870 and 1911--  roughly 100–150 years ago--  so not exactly yesterday.

In fact, the most recent arrivals in Nunes’s family were both of his great-grandfathers who arrived in Boston on April 4, 1911. Mind you, they were just buddies from Fajã dos Vimes at this point. It would be another 35 years before their future children would marry, making them in-laws, but they brought up the rear in terms of Nunes’s immigrant ancestors.

I get it. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Azores and am well acquainted with the nostalgic attachment many of us have to the countries of our families’ origins. My own family is similar to Nunes’s in the sense that most of my immigrant ancestors arrived between 1880 and 1913, with one pocket landing here earlier--  like his Dust Bowl branch--  and as a result, I have a soft spot for Ireland and Slovakia.

But there’s a big difference between having a fondness for an ancestral country and Nunes’s intense loyalty to Portugal that prompts him to repeatedly attempt to use his political clout for Portuguese benefit over strenuous and practical objections from a number of American military, congressional, and other governmental experts. If everyone in your family has been here for at least 107 years, if every branch of your entire family tree has been planted in America for a minimum of three generations, shouldn’t your allegiance be first and foremost to the United States?

Every time I write an immigration-related article, I get responses from pro-border wall people--  yes, Nunes supports the wall) who invariably make the same three claims: My ancestors came here legally, they learned English, and they assimilated. Those familiar with the history of immigration in America know that it was pretty darn hard to come here illegally before the 1920s, so please read this if you’re new to the topic, but let’s consider the latter two claims with regard to Nunes’s family.

He comes from an area of California that has long been home to many dairy farmers of Azorean descent. Like so many immigrant communities, they stayed tight-knit and provided support for one another. The same happened in my own family, with the Irish who came to build railroads and the Slavs who came to work in the coal mines. What differentiates Nunes’s community is that it still exists--  even generations after arrival.

One factor is the intensity of chain migration/family reunification. In Nunes’s case, the chart showing his nine immigrant ancestors is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. These nine include only direct line ancestors of Devin Nunes--  in other words, it doesn’t include collateral relatives who also came over, such as siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles. But none of these nine came here in a vacuum. Those two great-grandfathers who came together in 1911? Both of them were going to meet their respective brothers who were already in California.

Here’s another example showing Joaquin A. Silveira, who had been in America for some time, returning from a trip to the Azores with his father, mother, brother, sister, and his brother’s wife. By the standards of the proposed Securing America’s Future Act of 2018 (H.R.4760), none of these relatives would be eligible to join Joaquin in the United States. That would be unfortunate for Nunes, as Joaquin’s sister, Maria Inez Silveira, would become his great-grandmother.

It’s easy to understand why these families would stick closely together. They were regarded as outsiders, making existing connections that much more important. The concentration of Portuguese immigrants into the Tulare vicinity was so pronounced that a local accounting of deaths in 1920 specifies those of “American babies” and “Portuguese babies,” but no other ethnicities, even though an examination of the paper trail shows that there were a variety of immigrants in the area ranging from Japanese to Armenian.

One of Nunes’s grandfathers was born in Tulare in 1919 to Maria, the sister who had arrived with her whole family in 1908. These tight bonds were surely comforting, but likely made it harder for immigrants to assimilate. Here’s Maria again in 1930–22 years after arriving in America--  still unable to speak English.

Maria’s brother who brought her over left the fold and became the president of a bank in Oakland, but she stayed safely ensconced in her community, and so continued to speak Portuguese. And that community continued to grow in place over the generations , partly because Nunes hails from an impressively long-lived people with large extended and interlacing families. Born when his parents were only 16 and 20 years old, the abundance of octogenarians and nonagenarians among Nunes’s kinfolk meant that he had an astonishing five living great-grandparents to welcome him into the world, and just missed a sixth by one week. The cousin density in his district may well parallel that of Amish, Icelandic, Mormon, and other closely knit populations.

It also seems that becoming an American citizen was not a priority for Nunes’s family. Some of the nine immigrant relatives listed in the initial chart never went through the naturalization process, but here’s a summary of those who did. Collectively, they took an average of 30.8 years from their date of arrival to do so.

Even Della who surrendered her American nationality upon marrying took 18 years to address the situation. Her husband had skipped the chance for expedited citizenship--  which would have restored his wife’s citizenship as well--  by serving in World War I, but he wasn’t alone. All three of Nunes’s Azorean immigrant great-grandfathers had this opportunity, but passed on it. Instead, everyone waited a couple of additional decades until the approach of the next world war to take steps in this direction.

Divided Loyalties

Perhaps the self-contained nature of the community in which Nunes was raised helps explain why he displays such strong allegiance to the country that three-quarters of his ancestors arrived from 100–150 years ago, even if it doesn’t entirely excuse it. That Nunes is willing to put the priorities of any other country over those of the United States is worrisome, though it isn’t his divided loyalty with Portugal, specifically, that most alarms patriotic Americans. For those troubled by his baffling behavior during the present administration, I leave you with a promising omen I stumbled across in my research. Lurking among the non-Azorean branches of his family tree is a relative with an unexpected and reassuring name: Robert Mueller.
As we mentioned yesterday, Ivanka Trump is kicking off her plans to appeal to fat cat GOP donors with a stop in Fresno, a city split between 3 congressional districts, Nunes', Costa's and Valadao's. The median income of Costa's district is $36,190 and 1.4% of people there make over $200,000 annually. In Valadao's district the median income is $36,777 and 1.6% make over $200,000. But in Nunes' district there's a big spike. The media income is $50,389 and 4.1% of the people make over $200,000. That's enough for some local fundraising-- and it's why Ivanka and McCarthy are holding a fundraiser there. But you know who's not raising much money in Fresno or anywhere else in CA-22? According to McClatchy's Emily Cadei and Kate Irby, that would be Devin Nunes, who is actually advertising in the DC area!

He brings in plenty of dough from DC lobbyists and Trumpists in DC... but not much from his own district. "Through the end of March," they wrote," for the Fresno Bee, "the Fresno-area Republican has raised far more from D.C. and its neighboring states than he has from his own district, an analysis of campaign finance data finds."
Of the more than $1 million Nunes raised from individual donors, roughly $19,000, or 2 percent, came from people in his district, which includes chunks of Fresno and Tulare Counties. That's the smallest percentage of any the eight California Republicans in Congress who Democrats are targeting for defeat this fall. 
A third of Nunes' individual donations came from out-of-state, including more than $100,000 from Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

In addition, Nunes has raised more than $1 million from corporate PACs and other political committees, which are primarily based in Washington and its suburbs.

Nunes has come under fire back home from political opponents, Democratic ad campaigns and local officials for spending too much of his time attacking the special counsel investigation into President Donald Trump's presidential campaign's ties with Russia, and too little working on district priorities.

He's been repeatedly criticized for not holding town halls. He did hold water forums open to the public in 2016, according to public records, but questions were screened by staff. Those are the only recent public forums by Nunes in his district on record, though constituents have held town halls that he's refused to participate in.

He hasn't sponsored legislation-- besides a resolution to fix a language technicality in January-- submitted amendments or put out a press release in 2018. Of five posts to his blog in 2018, two are focused on what he deems liberal "fake news."

Nunes' escalating confrontation with the Justice Department has made him a fixture on cable news. Most recently, Nunes was in the middle of a controversy over a classified FBI briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss the role of an informant that Trump has accused of spying on his campaign.

The California Republican has been using those headlines in his fundraising appeals to D.C.-area donors-- the Huffington Post reported earlier this month that one Virginia resident received a fundraising appeal from Nunes boasting of his role in exposing " the real collusion between the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Clinton campaign.”

It also highlighted how Trump called the Republican congressman a "Great American Hero" in a February Tweet. Trump repeated his praise of Nunes on Monday, calling Nunes "a very courageous man," during an event at the CIA.

...A Democratic ad campaign called Fight Back California is pledging to spend $50,000 to $100,000 trying to hammer Nunes’ for his absence. The first shot by the campaign included three billboards that have been posted along a main highway in the district.

Together, the billboards ask: "Why is Devin Nunes hot on Russia while farmers get burned on a trade war with China? Congressman Nunes, how could you forget us?"

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At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nunes' own hometown newspaper editorializes that it's time for Nunes to find a job, so he should be easy pickings. But I expect that the DxCC will screw up this opportunity and put up some drooling fool just because he's a "centrist" (read: GOP-lite) and maybe can give some money to the Party to help pay for some other drooling fool's campaign.

Yes, let's take over THIS Party from within!

At 5:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mildly interesting, but on this site it's a waste of space. nunes has already self-destructed via his overt service to Russia in the committee. If the democraps cannot displace him, they only prove their unworthiness.

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mueller isn't doing shit. and what does Mueller's not doing shit have to do with nunes delusions of being portugese?


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