Imagine Deportation: How Richard Nixon vs. John Lennon Rewrote U.S. Immigration Law

Richard Nixon [Wikipedia]/John Lennon [Wikipedia]

NEW YORK, NY — At 10:50 P.M. on December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman, 25, tore the heart out of humanity by pumping four bullets from a .38 revolver into the back of John Lennon outside his New York City apartment building.

Related: Crime History — The Night Mark David Chapman Gunned Down John Lennon

Lennon collapsed to the ground in front of his wife and frequent collaborator, Yoko Ono. Less than an hour later, doctors at Roosevelt Hospital pronounced the 40-year-old visionary musician and international superstar dead.

Chapman, an obsessed “fan,” had been actively planning to murder his one-time idol. Upon being arrested, Chapman told police he used hollow-point bullets because “they are more deadly.” His motivation, he later explained, stemmed from anger over Lennon’s negative views of God and religion.

In June 1981, Chapman pleaded guilty. He received a sentence of 20-years-to-life and has since remained incarcerated.

As tends to happen with history-changing crimes, numerous conspiracy theories have arisen regarding what actually drove Mark David Chapman to so coldly execute a man who meant so much to so many millions of people worldwide.

Related: Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s Killer, Denied Parole For The 9th Time

One of the most outrageous yet enduring is that Chapman was a CIA-trained assassin, dispatched to silence a voice that so actively and so effectively had challenged the American establishment in general, and the United States government in particular.

Such a notion seems nuts at first, until you consider the actual, proven campaigns launched against Lennon just a few years earlier by the CIA, the FBI, and other government forces, under the tutelage of famously paranoid and vindictive President Richard Nixon.

As leader of the Beatles — who were not so much a mere rock band as they were a cultural mega-force that upended virtually every aspect of life — Lennon came to recognize that he wielded enormous influence and power.

Related: British Brutal-Mania — Mods Vs. Rockers In The UK Beach Riots Of 1964

As the ’60s drew to a close, Lennon aimed to use his virtually unprecedented position to affect social change, much of it subversive and distinctively leftwing in nature. Enter Nixon and his rampantly hippie-hating FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s agency initially opened a special file on Lennon in 1968, after he and Ono moved full-time to Manhattan.

In papers finally made public three decades later, note from FBI agents describe peering on Lennon through apartment building windows and describing such relative non-issues such as his smoking pot at home and watching cartoons with East Village musician David Peel.

Ultimately, the FBI concluded that Lennon lacked the wherewithal to actually spearhead a governmental overthrow due to the fact that he “was constantly under the influence of narcotics.”

Related: 9 Stalkers That Make Us Glad We’re Not Famous

With the 1972 election looming, Nixon’s fear and loathing of Lennon skyrocketed. If the president was willing to order and cover-up the Watergate break-in (which finally undid him), there could be no way he’d allow a longhaired, foreign rock musician to muck up his plans for another four years in the White House.

Lennon, at the same time, generated hit songs on the order of Give Peace a Chance” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” He also mounted stunts such as his and Ono’s “Bed-Ins for Peace” and a massive concert in support of MC5 manager Phil Sinclair, who got 10 years in jail for selling two joints.

More dramatically, Lennon’s activism stretched beyond U.S. borders when he outspokenly expressed sympathy for the bomb-throwing Irish Republican Army and, allegedly, the International Marxist Group, a violent organization based in England. Such ocean-spanning activities made Lennon, to Nixon, an international insurgent and, as such, a fine target for the CIA.

Related: The Kray Twins, Swinging London’s Gay Gangsters, Go Down For Murder In ’69

After the debacle of the Chicago Seven and the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention, Nixon’s party could allow for no such risks at their 1972 event, scheduled to be held that summer in San Diego.

Upon hearing that Lennon planned to demonstrate outside the Republican National Convention, Senator Strom Thurmond sent a memo to Nixon stating, “Deportation would be a strategic counter-measure.”

In early 1972, the Immigration and Naturalization Service officially commenced the process to kick John Lennon out of the country. The agency cited Lennon’s 1968 misdemeanor marijuana bust in England as cause to have never let the Beatle move here in the first place.

Related: Tune In, Turn Out, Bust Out — When LSD Guru Timothy Leary Escaped From Prison

On March 23, 1973, the United States ordered Lennon to leave its shores within 60 days. Voices as disparate as lefty rock star Bob Dylan and archconservative National Review publisher William F. Buckley publicly campaigned against the deportation, citing it as gross governmental overreach based solely on Lennon’s politics.

Years of legal wrangling kept Lennon in New York until 1975, when a court of appeals finally agreed with the protestors and announced: “The courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds.”

The landmark decision forever clarified U.S. policy regarding immigrants, and went on to even shape the now hotly debated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) measure.

By the time of Lennon’s triumph, it should be noted, President Nixon had long since resigned in disgrace.

Related: “I Have Never Been a Quitter” — Broken By Watergate, President Richard Nixon Resigns

In 1976, John Lennon received his green card, making him a permanent United States resident. The following year, he and Ono attended President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural ball. Then, one miserable night three years later in New York City, along came Mark David Chapman.

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Read more:
New York Post
NPR
John Lennon FBI Files
Ultimate Classic Rock

Main photos: Richard Nixon [Wikipedia]/John Lennon [Wikipedia]

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