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US politics, immigration 

Many 19th century immigrants from Europe would have been expelled, had officials been able to follow the letter of the law. As it was, though, (1) their numbers simply overwhelmed the system of enforcement, and (2) compassionate public officials willfully ignored the law, in order to provide refuge to those fleeing famine and persecution.

"The danger of vilifying poor immigrants: Your ancestors weren't as legal — or as wealthy — as you think."

washingtonpost.com/outlook/201

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