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Immigrants Of The Week: Cesar Millan, Mariane Pearl, Yoko Ono, Angela Lansbury, And Elie Wiesel

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are some entries from Greg Siskind's blog.


The National Geographic Channel's #1 rated show is a reality show centering around Cesar Millan helping owners correct problem behavior with their dogs. Okay, that doesn't sound terribly compelling, but the show is actually well done and worth watching, particularly if you're a dog lover.

Cesar Millan is probably the best know dog trainer on the planet. So a lot of folks who watch his show might be surprised that he crossed illegally from his native Mexico in 1990 and was an illegal alien for several years. He's now a permanent resident and on his way to citizenship.

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The story of Mariane Pearl is well-known. She is the widow of Wall Street Journalist reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and tortured by al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. Mariane Pearl's heroic story is documented in her book "A Mighty Heart" and the movie of the same title. Newsweek described the story:

"A Mighty Heart," starring Angelina Jolie, is based on the best-selling book by Mariane Pearl about the murder of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, by Al Qaeda members in Karachi, Pakistan, in early 2002. The movie details Mariane's struggle—with the help of Journal editors, Pakistan counterterrorism experts, FBI agents and others—to unravel the terrorist network and find Danny.

Ms. Pearl now resides in New York raising the young child of Daniel's who was born after his father was murdered. Interestingly, Ms. Pearl's nationality is French, by the way, but she is of Dutch-Jewish, Afro-Latino-Cuban and Chinese-Cuban ancestry. That kind of mix should give you a unique perspective on the world.

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When I was in junior high school, I started to pay a lot more attention to the news of the world. The energy crisis, the US hostage standoff in Iran, the shooting of President Reagan, the Falklands War, they were all major news. But the one event that had the most emotional impact was surely the murder of John Lennon in New York in 1980. Though I am too young to remember the Beatles before they broke up, but that didn't stop me and many of my friends from being avid fans. I owned all the albums and knew all the songs.  In fact, shortly before Lennon died, I had just gone out and bought Double Fantasy, his new album that was out for just three weeks before he died. The album, by the way, had the great songs "Woman", "Beautiful Boy" and "Just Like Starting Over."

There's a story relating to John Lennon that I knew little about until recently. I knew Lennon was hounded by the FBI for his anti-war activities and that he was almost deported. I've been lucky enough to become friends over the last few years with Lennon's immigration lawyer Leon Wildes. Leon serves on the board of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and we go to a dinner every year together at the annual meeting of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (Leon, by the way, is a former president of AILA).

This evening I finally was able to view the excellent documentary The U.S. Versus John Lennon which tells the story of the deportation case. Much of the story focuses on Yoko as well as John and their long battle with an INS and a White House intent on getting the couple out of the country and out of their hair. Much of the story focuses on Leon's brilliant defense of the couple and he is interviewed at length in the film.

The story ends when Lennon is killed by Mark David Chapman near the entrance to the Dakota Hotel on the upper West Side in Manhattan, Yoko and John's residence. Yoko has spent nearly three decades since the murder keeping her husband's legacy alive including founding a museum honoring John and establishing the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park.

Oko's life has been extremely interesting. She's certainly the most controversial figure in the Beatles story with many blaming her for the break up of the band. But it's obvious that Lennon and Ono were very much in love until John's premature demise.

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Despite being 81, British-born actress Angela Lansbury is still one of the hardest working actresses in the US. She's had multiple Academy Award nominations as well as wins at the Emmys and Tonys. My kids know her as Mrs. Potts' voice from the animated film Beauty and the Beast and I remember her from Sweeney Todd, one of the great Broadway productions of the last several decades. She's also a familiar face to most Americans for her many years starring in the CBS television hit Murder She Wrote.

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Elie Wiesel's life began peacefully, but as with every Jew in Europe, it was torn apart by the terror of the Nazi Holocaust. He was deported from his native Romania to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the site of more than a million murders in the half decade of its existence. His mother, father and one of his three sisters were murdered. After the war, Elie and his two surviving sisters were placed in a French orphanage. For ten years, he was unwilling to speak or write about his experience, but he was persuaded by his friend Francois Mauriac, a Nobel Literature Prize winner, to write about the war as a form of therapy. 

Wiesel immigrated to the US in 1955 and became a citizen within a few years. In 1958, he wrote Night, the first of 40 books. He has also been a well known activist around the world in matters relating to genocide and spearheaded the creation of the Smithsonian's Holocaust Museum in Washington. He has been recognized for his work including being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and being granted honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth in 2006. He . His profile in the US recently rose again when Oprah Winfrey selected Night as her book club selection instantly bringing the half century title to the top of the bestseller list, something it did not achieve in its initial publication. His recent visit back to Auschwitz with Oprah Winfrey brought awareness of genocide in the world to millions of Americans and he was provided a platform for raising awareness of genocide in Darfur, a subject that has recently been taking up much of his attention.

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About The Author

Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.