Het zal morgen al vijftig jaar geleden zijn dat de republikeinse senator Strom Thurmond (1902-2003) John Lennon & Yoko Ono uit de VS wil zetten. John & Yoko namen daarop de advocaat Leon Wildes (foto onderaan) onder de arm omdat die gespecialiseerd was op het gebied van immigratie en hij zou erin slagen het paar in de VS te doen blijven. Als men dan weet hoe dat uiteindelijk zou aflopen, kan men ergens stellen: jammer genoeg, maar ja, wie kan er in de toekomst kijken, nietwaar? Op bovenstaande foto ziet men Strom Thurmond op bezoek bij Margaret Thatcher in 1981.

Ik wil er ook nog op wijzen dat Thurmond tot 1964 senator was voor de democratische partij. Dit deed hij uit protest tegen de Civil Rights Act van 1964, die segregatie en discriminatie verbood in verkiezingswetten, horeca, scholen en op de arbeidsmarkt. Eerder had hij in 1957 een record gezet door 24 uur en 18 minuten te spreken in een (vergeefse) poging een wet tegen te houden die zwarten het stemrecht garandeerde.
Anderzijds dient gezegd dat hij in 1954 als ‘write-in kandidaat’ in de senaat werd verkozen. Dat wil zeggen, hij stond niet op het stembiljet, maar werd gekozen door mensen die een optie ‘schrijf hier een andere mogelijke kandidaat’ gebruikten. Hij was de eerste die daarin slaagde.
Kort na de dood van Thurmond maakte Essie Mae Washington-Williams bekend dat zij een dochter van Strom Thurmond was. Hiermee verbrak ze een langdurige overeenkomst over het verzwijgen van haar afkomst. Ze werd geboren op 12 oktober 1925 als dochter van Thurmond en van Carrie Butler, een zwart dienstmeisje dat bij de ouders van Thurmond werkte. Butler was op dat moment 16 jaar en Thurmond 22. Nadat mevrouw Washington-Williams haar afkomst openbaar had gemaakt, werd die door de familie van wijlen Thurmond bevestigd. Dat hij een dochter had verwekt bij een zwart dienstmeisje had Thurmond al die jaren geheim weten te houden, al was er tussen vader en dochter wel contact.
Hieronder kan men dan weer het verhaal lezen van Leon Wildes op een Russische site (Ringofstars).
Wildes said that at the time of his introduction to Lennon and Ono that he had no idea who they were. “I had never heard of John Lennon, much less Yoko Ono,” he writes. “While I was vaguely aware of the Beatles, I certainly couldn’t name any band members.” His son, Michael, confirmed his dad’s pop culture blind spot, saying: “When Dad met John, he had no idea who he was.”
The case began as a simple legal procedure aimed at allowing the Lennons to keep trying to get custody of Yoko’s daughter, Kyoko, who then lived with her father, Tony Cox. “In the beginning of the case, we had no intention to apply for residence,” Leon Wildes said. “So all I was retained to do was to get an extension of six months so that John and Yoko could continue their custody proceedings with respect to Yoko’s eight-year old child. So I was confident that I could get that.”
But the government started making it clear they wanted Lennon and Ono out of the country. After Lennon and Ono participated in a rally in support of Michigan poet/activist and MC5 manager John Sinclair in Michigan, a Feb. 4, 1972 letter from Sen. Strom Thurmond to Attorney Gen. John Mitchell started the ball rolling to have them expelled. “When they started denying things and putting my clients under deportation proceedings, the case changed completely,” Leon Wildes said.
Wildes noted that the government targeted the Lennons for deportation because Nixon was afraid the activist couple would prevent him from being re-elected because of their influence on young voters. “It seems to me that they were out to get John and Yoko from the first moment I got into the case,” Leon Wildes said. He recalled that the District Director of Immigration told him, “The situation in Washington for vis-a-vis your clients is not a healthy one. They will not be given any further extensions and I suggest you tell them to get the hell out.”
The government tried to hinge getting rid of Lennon on a marijuana possession conviction in the UK, the infamous 1968 drug raid by Scotland Yard Detective Sgt. Norman Pilcher. But they were stymied when Wildes proved that legally what Lennon was busted for, hashish, wasn’t technically marijuana.
The government’s methods also included putting together an FBI dossier on Lennon and shadowing the couple everywhere they went. The government agents weren’t hard to spot. “There were two guys interminably fixing a bike, a broken bike across the street,” Leon Wildes said. “And whenever they (the Lennons) got into a car, when they had a car pick them up to take them anywhere, those two guys were in a car right behind them. They watched the house. They followed them. They wanted them to feel they were under surveillance.”
Ono proved to be a big asset to the case, the elder Wildes said. “I found her as being very intelligent,” he said. “She seemed to always ask the right questions. And she seemed to have a kind of sixth sense as to what was going on behind the motions.”
Another person who helped the Lennons during this time was Beatles manager Allen Klein. “He was like a tough businessman and acted that way,” said Wildes. “I found him very smart.”
It was a very tough time for Lennon himself, which became compounded when Nixon won re-election in 1972, beginning a long period of depression for the ex-Beatle, Wildes says. Lennon and Ono separated in 1973 and stayed apart for 18 months during what became known as his debauched “Lost Weekend.”
Wildes said he always knew they would get back together. “I spent most of my time being in touch with both of them and supporting Yoko during that time of being on her own in New York,” he said. “They had a loving relationship and it broke down because of all that pressure, Nixon being re-elected and so on. And they separated, but when they got back together, the relationship, their love was greater than ever before.”
The turning point in the complicated case was when Wildes filed under the Freedom of Information Act and proved the government’s inconsistency in filing deportation cases.
The final word came down Oct. 8, 1975, in a phone call from a court clerk. The case became a landmark in immigration law and is referred to even today. It was the basis for President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive orders for his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which were based on the Dream Act. Because of his experience, Leon Wildes taught a class on the Lennon case and immigration law for 30 years at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. Son Michael now teaches the class.
But the Lennons haven’t been the only celebrity clients for the Wildes. They have also represented Boy George, soccer legend Pele and artist Sarah Brightman — and have also handled immigration matters for Donald Trump, representing the Republican presidential candidate when he owned the Miss Universe pageant. “We did all the Miss Universe visas and green cards and Trump models and other groups under his control,” Michael Wildes said. However, Wildes, a former federal prosecutor and ex-mayor of Englewood, N.J., said he was supporting democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in last year’s election.


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