Virulently racist and anti-immigrant White House adviser Stephen Miller clearly has the ear of Trump, but his uncle just wrote an op-ed for Politico Magazine revealing his deep hypocrisy on the subject of immigration. If the rules he wants in place for immigrants existed when his ancestors came here, he would not exist because they would have been slaughtered by Hitler during the Holocaust.
et me tell you a story about Stephen Miller and chain migration.
It begins at the turn of the 20th century, in a dirt-floor shack in the village of Antopol, a shtetl of subsistence farmers in what is now Belarus. Beset by violent anti-Jewish pogroms and forced childhood conscription in the Czar’s army, the patriarch of the shack, Wolf-Leib Glosser, fled a village where his forebears had lived for centuries and took his chances in America.
He set foot on Ellis Island on January 7, 1903, with $8 to his name. Though fluent in Polish, Russian and Yiddish, he understood no English. An elder son, Nathan, soon followed. By street corner peddling and sweatshop toil, Wolf-Leib and Nathan sent enough money home to pay off debts and buy the immediate family’s passage to America in 1906. That group included young Sam Glosser, who with his family settled in the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown, a booming coal and steel town that was a magnet for other hardworking immigrants. The Glosser family quickly progressed from selling goods from a horse and wagon to owning a haberdashery in Johnstown run by Nathan and Wolf-Leib to a chain of supermarkets and discount department stores run by my grandfather, Sam, and the next generation of Glossers, including my dad, Izzy. It was big enough to be listed on the AMEX stock exchange and employed thousands of people over time. In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens.
What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister.
I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants — been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America first” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family likely would have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.
Unfortunately, this is so common that it’s practically the norm in American history. Every new group of immigrants faces the same arguments against allowing them to come here, the same bigoted allegations (they’ll bring disease! They don’t assimilate! They’ll undermine America from within!). And then once they’re established here, they turn around and use that same rhetoric against the next wave of immigrants, conveniently forgetting their own history. And we all forget it too, pretending that the world begins anew with each new generation.
What we ought to be doing is welcoming new immigrants. We need them economically and financially (since the baby boom generation is larger than those that followed), but we also need them culturally. They provide new energy, new stories, new food, new fashion and so much more. Their assimilation is never complete and that’s a good thing. They quickly learn to speak the language and overwhelmingly share the values, but the incompleteness of the assimilation — their insistence on retaining something of their own heritage — drives forward the arts and history in new and compelling ways.
This is one of the reasons I love the city of New Orleans (other than the weather, which is like hell squared). It’s that mixture of Cajun and Creole and African-American and Caribbean, all coming together in wonderful ways. I want more of that. I want the whole country to be like New Orleans, with new fusions and new inputs and influences. I find that invigorating.