The Nixon administration tried to deport John Lennon.

  • John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
JJs/ Alamy Stock Photo

You don’t have to imagine Richard Nixon trying to deport John Lennon, because it actually happened, in 1972. The 37th President of the United States was no fan of the former Beatle, whose ballad “Give Peace a Chance” became a rallying cry among anti-Vietnam War activists who believed the best way to end the conflict was to make Nixon a one-term commander in chief. This was highly irksome during Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign, and the famously vindictive leader responded by sending the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) after Lennon, under the pretense that he had been allowed into America improperly since he’d been charged with a marijuana-related misdemeanor in England in 1968.

Their efforts were unsuccessful, in part because Lennon had a little help from his friends. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Leonard Bernstein, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Updike wrote letters on behalf of Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono. The administration kept pushing for deportation despite the “let them stay in the USA” campaign, and even after Nixon won reelection in a landslide. A year after Nixon resigned in disgrace, a three-judge panel ruled in the musician’s favor, writing in its ruling that “Lennon’s four-year battle to remain in our country is testimony to his faith in this American dream.”

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