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Immigrants Of The Day: Jessica Alice Tandy of London, Bhagat Singh Thind of India, and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon of India

by Kevin R. Johnson

Jessica Alice Tandy (London)

Tandy 200pxdriving_miss_daisy_ Jessica Alice Tandy (19091994) was a stage and film actress. Born in Geldeston Road in the London Borough of Hackney, Tandy's acting career spanned 65 years.  She found latter-day movie stardom in major studio releases.

Tandy first appeared on the London stage in 1926. She also worked in British films. Following the end of her first marriage, Tandy moved to New York and met Canadian actor Hume Cronyn, who became her second husband and frequent partner on stage and screen. She made her American film debut in The Seventh Cross (1944). After her Tony-winning performance as Blanche DuBois in the original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, (she lost the film role to actress Vivien Leigh), Tandy concentrated on the stage.

Tandy became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1952.

For the next 30 years, Tandy appeared sporadically in films such as The Light in the Forest (1957) and The Birds (1963). The beginning of the 1980s saw a resurgence in her film career, with character roles in The World According to Garp, Best Friends, Still of the Night (all 1982), The Bostonians (1984), and the hit film Cocoon (1985).   Tandy and Cronyn had been working together more and more, on stage and television, to continued acclaim, notably in 1987's Foxfire which won her an Emmy Award. However, it was Tandy's colorful performance in "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), as an aging, stubborn Southern-Jewish matron, that made her a bonafide Hollywood star and earned her an Oscar.  She earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in the grassroots hit Fried Green Tomatoes (1992).  Camilla (1994, with Cronyn) was Tandy's last performance. She died at home on September 11, 1994, in Easton, Connecticut, of ovarian cancer at the age of 85.

July 27, 2007 | Permalink

Bhagat Singh Thind (India)

Thind Bhagat Singh Thind (1892-1967) was born in the Punjab of India and immigrated to the United States in 1913. A year later, he was working his way through the University of California, Berkeley. When the United States entered World War I, Thind joined the U.S. Army. Honorably discharged in December, 1918, he in 1920 applied for U.S. citizenship. Since several applicants from India had previously been granted U.S. citizenship, Thind too was approved by the district court. However a naturalization examiner appealed the decision.

In 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "Hindus" are "aliens ineligible to citizenship" in United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind, 261 U. S. 204. From 1790-1952, the U.S. immigration laws generally required that an immigrant be "white" to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen, which resulted in the denial of naturalization to many immigrants from Asia.  For analysis of the whiteness requirement in court decisions, see Ian F. Haney Lopez, White By Law (10th commemorative ed. 2007).

Despite being denied U.S. citizenship, Thind remained in the U.S., completed his Ph.D., and delivered lectures in metaphysics all across the nation. Basing his lessons on Sikh philosophy, he enriched his teaching with references to the scriptures of several religions and the work of Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau. Thind campaigned actively for the independence of India, and helped Indian students in any way he could. In 1931, he married Vivian Davies.

Thind was one of the few Indians in the U.S. Army during World War I. In 1935, the U.S. Congress passed a law allowing a path to citizenship for all veterans of World War. Under this law, Thind finally became a U.S. citizen in 1936. This time, no official of the U.S. government dared object or appeal his naturalization.

For information about Thind's fight for citizenship, click here. For information about his life, see here.

July 30, 2007 | Permalink

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (India)

Apu Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Jr., Ph.D., is a fictional character featured on The Simpsons television series. Hank Azaria is Apu's voice.

Apu owns the Springfield Kwik-E-Mart (a subsidiary of Nordyne Defense Dynamics) (called Stop-O-Mart in Ohio), a local convenience store. An immigrant from India who arrived in 1988, he is, like most Simpsons characters, a caricature of a common stereotype in his case, that of the Indian convenience-store owner. His most defining characteristics are his exaggerated Indian English, and his indefatigable immigrant work ethic. His catchphrase is "Thank you, come again!" cheerfully and dutifully repeated to customers (no matter how unpleasant) after each transaction, even after a robbery.

His first name is an homage to the main character in the Apu trilogy directed by Satyajit Ray. Many of his mannerisms, his intelligence, and even the appearance of his parents mirror this character. His surname, Nahasapeemapetilon, is a morphophonological blend of the name Pahasadee Napetilon, the full name of a schoolmate of Simpsons writer Jeff Martin.

Don't miss Apu in The Simpsons Movie!  For more information about him, click here.

UPDATE:  Alejandra reminds us of the following "facts" about Apu's background:

I had to chuckle while I read the little biography about Apu. Still, you forgot one little fact. Apu was for a small period of time an undocumented immigrant. He graduated from a technical school and overstayed his student visa. He later was help by "nativist" Homer to apply and obtain his green card. I don't remember which episode it was but it was a very old one and they have not re-aired for a long time.

July 31, 2007 | Permalink

These posts were orginally posted on the ImmigrationProf Blog here, here and here.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog .

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