On St. Patrick’s Day, a pub on Detroit’s Michigan Avenue refused to serve anyone Irish or wearing green.
“We don’t need no more immigrants in this country,” Bouncer Bill Johns reportedly told passersby. “The majority of them aren’t helping anybody but themselves.”
The twist? This is (thankfully) not a real bar.
“No Irish Pub” is an installation by Bloomington Hills resident Dan Margulis, who wanted to raise awareness of and generate conversation about how different immigrant communities were and are treated in America. He was galvanized by recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) media coverage and DREAMers controversies. A production company, Atlas Industries, created a video of the project.
“On a day when everyone is proclaiming solidarity with an immigrant group… We wanted them to feel like it was like to be treated like an Irish immigrant years ago in this country,” Margulis told USA Today. “Hopefully, that would get them to think about the way we treat current immigrant groups.”
Irish immigrants were marginalized when they arrived in America. According to the Irish Times, between the 1840s and 1870s, some 50,000 Irish emigres were actually forcibly expelled from Massachusetts and deported to Ireland and Britain. Signs reading, “Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply” were hung outside of U.S. businesses in the 19th century.
Although contemporary historians debate the pervasiveness of those signs, they loom large in collective memory. And the trajectory of Irish-Americans provide individuals like Margulis a useful allegory for contemporary immigration rhetoric.
“It’s about starting a conversation,” Margulis told NPR.