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Friday Found Poem: Mr. Mezei on the Island

On like an apple

This week's "found poem" is another one crafted from a legal case.

The case is a really interesting situation that happened during the second "red scare" in the U.S., in the 1950s. Mezei, a Romanian/Hungarian man had lived here in the US legally for 25 years, as a permanent resident (i.e., he had what everybody calls a "green card," though it is not green now). He left the US to try to visit his dying mother in Romania but was denied entry and then had trouble getting permission to leave Hungary. He finally got permission to leave Hungary, and was granted a visa at the American consulate for entry to the U.S.

But when he actually arrived at Ellis Island, the U.S. government denied him entry, as a threat to national security. The government refused to disclose why it thought Mezei was a threat. Unfortunately, no other country in the world was willing to take Mezei in, especially now that the U.S. deemed him a threat but refused to say why.

Mezei sued, demanding a chance to hear the evidence against him and respond, to try to prove it was safe to let him go back to his home in New York. He argued that keeping him on Ellis Island was depriving him of his liberty without "due process of law," in violation of the constitution.

As you'll see in the poem, Mezei lost the case. The court's opinion has a single chilling line that has always stood out to me, from the first time I read it: "Whatever the procedure authorized by Congress is, it is due process as far as an alien denied entry is concerned."

I Love Budapest

On Tynan

I'm not sure how many countries I've visited in the past year, but the fact that I have no idea gives you an idea. Four in the past week, if you don't count the US. A lot of good flight deals popped up, and I booked them more quickly than I could ask myself if traveling constantly was really the best use of my time. But here I am, in the air between Budapest and Amsterdam, on the last round the world I have booked.

On these trips I've been to a bunch of new places. There wasn't a single one that left me unable to find something to love of the city, but certainly some were better than others. Budapest, totally unexpectedly, is one of the best new places I've been in a long time.

That's not to say that it's objectively better than anywhere else, only that it fits my peculiar tastes remarkably well. I flew into Budapest without being able to list with certainty a single country Hungary borders. That's a good indicator of how little I knew about the city. I figured, like other European cities, I'd go to museums, walk around the city, admire the architecture, and eat delicious unhealthy food. I did those things, but also found a lot more.

Budapest is beautiful. It straddles the Danube river with three different bridges, and along those banks are beautiful old European buildings. But go a bit further in and you also see really well done modern architecture, sometimes integrated with old buildings.

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