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The deportation of Taisto A. Elo
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A telegram began the deportation process (Kenneth Enkel Papers, Box 1, Folder 1, Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota)
In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, thousands of Arab and Muslim men now face deportation for immigration violations. In past times of conflict and fear, there have been other mass deportations. In 1950, in the grip of Cold War anti-Communist fervor, Congress passed the Internal Security Act, also known the McCarran Act. It authorized the deportation of non-citizens who had ever been members of the Communist Party. In Minnesota, suspicion fell on the Finnish community. For decades, some Finnish immigrants had been labor organizers, radicals and socialists. One of the people targeted by the McCarran Act was Taisto Elo, a Finnish lumberjack.

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Image A ray of hope

Minneapolis, Minn. — Taisto Elo's story lies deep in the storage caverns of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. Gray cardboard boxes hold the papers of Elo's attorney, Kenneth Enkel. Enkel worked for the Minnesota Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, which defended immigrants faced with deportation during the McCarthy era.

In November 1952, officers from the Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested Elo in Beaver Bay, Minn.

His offense was that nearly two decades earlier, when he was in his 20s, Elo had been a member of the Communist Party. He had paid dues for two years -- 1936 and 1937. In Kenneth Enkel scrawling handwriting, the ink faded to brown, are the notes from his first meeting with Elo in the Saint Louis County jail.

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Image A postcard from Taisto

"He said that since his arrest about a month ago, he has been questioned by Service officers while in jail," Enkel's notes read. "He signed a statement which included among other things the fact of past membership (is not a member now). He also said Service officers tried to have him implicate others but he refused to be an informer. Did name two people who are dead," Enkel wrote.

Letters between the two men, attorney and client, tell the rest of the story:

February 2, 1953

Dear Taisto,

I assume you received a notice of your deportation hearing which is set for Friday, Febrary 13, 1953 at 10 a.m. I... will be in Duluth for the hearing. I will arrive...early Friday morning and will have plenty of time to go over the case with the meantime, continue to keep your chin up.

Kenneth J. Enkel

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Image Kenneth Enkel

February 23, 1953

Dear Taisto,

I am sorry to advise you that the Immigration Service refuses to lower your bail...

I can well understand that you are faced with a real problem in raising the additional one thousand the meantime I will...appeal the order of deportation.

I know it is easy for me to tell you to keep your chin up, but actually, you have no other choice. I know you understand the meaning of these persecutions, and this will add to your courage.

Kenneth J. Enkel

County Prison
Duluth, Minnesota
March 1, 1953

Dear Sir,
I received your letter of the 23rd of February and the copies of the correspondence you have had in connection with my bail...It's natural, of course, that I wish I was free and working for my living, instead of having the government pay for it…

Hope I’ll get some news about the bail and also hope that Americanism wins over McCarranism.

Very truly yours,
Taisto A Elo

April 2, 1953

Dear Taisto,

The appeal in your case before the Board of Immigration Appeals will be heard on Monday, April 20, 1953 in Washington, DC...I presume the reason for setting the case for oral argument so quickly is because your are still confined in jail.

Kenneth J. Enkel

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Image Help from the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born

April 14, 1953

Dear Taisto,

Believe it or not the Immigration Service finally consented to reduce your bail...I hope your father still has the $1,000...Upon release from jail you will be required to make yourself available for future hearings as requested by the Immigration Service. Accordingly, I want you to keep in touch with me at all times, giving your current address….

Kenneth J. Enkel

Big Fork, Minnesota
April 28, 1953

Dear Kenneth,

I'm way out in the woods. If anything comes up notify my boss Mr. Arthur Rajala. We cannot get mail here more than once a week. The boss lives in town --- he's a sawmill operator --- we are cutting pulpwood in the swamp.

I don't intend to stay here very long but I’ve got to earn a few dollars.

Didn't know just where to go when I got out, took the first chance out, trying to settle my nerves.

Well, I guess you know what a hard terms I got to live under.

Will have to try to get a better job later, so that I can pay back some part of what has been spent on my behalf.

Thanking you
Yours truly,
Taisto A Elo
Big Fork, Minnesota

May 20, 1953

Dear Taisto,

Received your letter of May 18, 1953 and I am sorry to hear that you are having a problem getting a decent job...

The Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed your appeal... As far as the actual deportation is concerned, you and I agreed in one of the occasions I saw you in jail in Duluth that we would fight this case to the last. This means that we will do everything to prevent actual deportation to Finland. Also I can add that the Immigration Service is having poor luck throughout the country in actually deporting people and they will have the same trouble deporting you. At the very worst, if they are successful in deporting you, it will take a long, long time...

I think I know how you feel regarding the rules you are required to live under but just remember that the Service still does not have the power to make an informer out of you, or anyone else for that matter. I know you will remain firm. If you have any further questions, write me at once.

Kenneth J. Enkel

May 21, 1953
Floodwood, Minn

Dear Kenneth,
Just got your letter and decided to let you know that under my bond I am able to travel from one immigration district to another...As I am now a well known character around these parts and now that they have tagged me as a full blooded Red, I'd rather be someplace else, so I thought I'd go out west. Of course, I'll let you know about that, when the time comes...

I have a job here for two weeks, but it's been raining so haven't been able to work. You ought to hear the stories that are in circulation around here about me...Duluth papers said, "Alien Communist released." Well now, I really get a kick out of these false stories and statements.

I have been requested to start paying my bail money too, so you see that the things aren't any too easy for me.

Thanks for writing to me as I was really anxious to know where I stand at this time.

Yours truly,
Taisto A. Elo

US Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
Ellis Island, New York Harbor
Sept 15, 1953

Kenneth J Enkel, Esq..
608- 610 Builders Exchange Building
Minneapolis 2, Minnesota.

Dear Sir,

Please be informed that Taisto Armas Elo will be deported to Finland on the SS "Stockholm" sailing from this port September 22, 1953.

very truly yours,

Philip Forman, Acting Chief
Detention, Deportation, and Parole Branch

Ellis Island, New York
Sept 15, 1953

Dear Kenneth,

I have been here since we arrived the 9th of this month... they tell me that's I'll be going on S.S. Italia, which leaves New York on the 23rd of this month.

My decision to leave the country came after I had discussed the situation with several of my friends, the majority seemed to favor my departure.

Well, someone may say that I took the easy way out, but to me it seems the hard way.

We, the so called subversives are a special group here, we have our own sleeping room upstairs, day time we are in our study. Have plenty of reading material, books by various Communist authors and of course by Marx. We also get the… Daily Worker. So if anyone wants to study Communism here's a good place for it.

There's 10 in our group at present, some have been here for months and one man for three years.

This is much better than jail, as we have plenty of room and are allowed to go outside. There's also plenty of food and the friends from New York bring fruit, candy and so on.

Must close now, will write from Finland. I wish to thank you for your assistance at my hearing, my belief is that we won as they did not get anything out of me.

Yours truly,
Taisto A Elo
ME 146
Ellis Island, New York

The letters between Enkel and Elo end here. An index card bearing Taisto's Elo’s name, on microfilm in the Immigration and Naturalization Service archives Washington DC says simply "deported, 1953."

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