Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.

If my nephew’s ideas on immigration had been in force a century ago, our family would have been wiped out.

.. Let 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.

.. 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.

As in past generations, there were hate mongers who regarded the most recent groups of poor immigrants as scum, rapists, gangsters, drunks and terrorists, but largely the Glosser family was left alone to live our lives and build the American dream.
.. blind to the hypocrisy of their policy decisions. After all, Stephen’s is not the only family with a chain immigration story in the Trump administration. Trump’s grandfather is reported to have been a German migrant on the run from military conscription to a new life in the United States, and his mother fled the poverty of rural Scotland for the economic possibilities of New York City. (Trump’s in-laws just became citizens on the strength of his wife’s own citizenship.)
.. These facts are important not only for their grim historical irony but because vulnerable people are being hurt. They are real people, not the ghoulish caricatures portrayed by Trump.
.. In the early 2000s, Joseph (not his real name) was conscripted at the age of 14 to be a soldier in Eritrea and sent to a remote desert military camp. Officers there discovered a Bible under his pillow which aroused their suspicion that he might belong to a foreign evangelical sect that would claim his loyalty and sap his will to fight. Joseph was actually a member of the state-approved Coptic church but was nonetheless immediately subjected to torture. “They smashed my face into the ground, tied my hands and feet together behind my back, stomped on me, and hung me from a tree by my bonds while they beat me with batons for the others to see.”
.. Joseph was tortured for 20 consecutive days before being taken to a military prison and crammed into a dark unventilated cell with 36 other men, little food and no proper hygiene. Some died, and in time Joseph was stricken with dysentery. When he was too weak to stand, he was taken to a civilian clinic where he was fed by the medical staff. Upon regaining his strength, he escaped to a nearby road where a sympathetic driver took him north through the night to a camp in Sudan where he joined other refugees. Joseph was on the first leg of a journey that would cover thousands of miles and almost 10 years.

.. Before Donald Trump had started his political ascent promulgating the false story that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim, while my nephew, Stephen, was famously recovering from the hardships of his high school cafeteria in Santa Monica, Joseph was a child on his own in Sudan in fear of being deported back to Eritrea to face execution for desertion.

.. In all of the countries he traveled through during his ordeal, he was vulnerable, exploited and his status was “illegal.” But in the United States, he had a chance to acquire the protection of a documented immigrant.

.. Today, at 30, Joseph lives in Pennsylvania and has a wife and child. He is a smart, warm, humble man of great character who is grateful for every day of his freedom and safety. He bears emotional scars from not seeing his parents or siblings since he was 14. He still trembles, cries and struggles for breath when describing his torture, and he bears physical scars as well.

.. I have met Central Americans fleeing corrupt governments, violence and criminal extortion; a Yemeni woman unable to return to her war-ravaged home country and fearing sexual mutilation if she goes back to her Saudi husband; and an escaped kidnap-bride from central Asia.

.. Trump wants to make us believe that these desperate migrants are an existential threat to the United States; the most powerful nation in world history and a nation made strong by immigrants. Trump and my nephew both know their immigrant and refugee roots. Yet, they repeat the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against these refugees to make them seem less than human.

Trump publicly parades the grieving families of people hurt or killed by migrants, just as the early Nazis dredged up Jewish criminals to frighten and enrage their political base to justify persecution of all Jews.

Almost every American family has an immigration story of its own based on flight from war, poverty, famine, persecution, fear or hopelessness. Most of these immigrants became workers, entrepreneurs, scientists and soldiers of America.

.. Most damning is the administration’s evident intent to make policy that specifically disadvantages people based on their ethnicity, country of origin and religion. No matter what opinion is held about immigration, any government that specifically enacts law or policy on that basis must be recognized as a threat to all of us. Laws bereft of justice are the gateway to tyranny. Today others may be the target, but tomorrow it might just as easily be you or me. History will be the judge, but in the meantime the normalization of these policies is rapidly eroding the collective conscience of America.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lesson of Omarosa’s New Trump Book

Omarosa Manigault’s forthcoming memoir and her allegations that Trump is a racist who habitually tosses around anti-black epithets. The Guardian reported that Manigault, in her book, says that she looked into rumors that there were tapes of “Apprentice” outtakes that allegedly include Trump using the word “nigger” and that, although she never tracked them down, she became convinced that they existed.

.. a contract proffered by Lara Trump for a fifteen-thousand-dollar monthly payment that Manigault believed amounted to hush money.

.. a period of gradual awakening to Trump’s bigoted outlook. Even after leaving the Administration, she offered the nonsensical hedge that Trump is “racial” but not racist—a position that is roughly equivalent to being human but not Homo sapiens.

.. Her realization about Trump’s outlook appears to have emerged at some point during her book deal. That’s not a gradual awakening, it’s a glacial, self-interested one.

.. His personal history yields an impressive greatest-hits collection that would include him

  • beginning his Presidential campaign by conflating Mexicans with rapists and later stating that
  • Judge Gonzalo Curiel should not preside over the Trump University fraud suit because of his Hispanic heritage. Trump
  • asked a friend of Karen McDougal, the former Playmate with whom Trump had an extramarital affair, if she liked “big black dick.” There is also, of course, the matter of
  • the Justice Department accusing the Trump family firm of discriminating against African-American renters in the seventies (Trump settled the suit without admitting guilt),
  • his racist public assault on the Central Park Five, and
  • his use of birtherism to propel himself into national politics. In a more recent spree,
  • he questioned the intelligence of Representative Maxine Waters, LeBron James, and the CNN host Don Lemon—each of whom is black—and (again) assailed African-American football players.

In matters of

  • race, as well as
  • competence,
  • decency,
  • character, and
  • fitness,

the public either already knows what it needs to know or intractably believes what it wishes to believe. Omarosa Manigault’s book is unlikely to change the balance of either.

Steve Bannon’s Departure Won’t Change Donald Trump

The president’s prejudices predate his relationship with the former Breitbart News chief.

.. It would be nice to believe that Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House will end, or least diminish, Donald Trump’s flirtations with bigotry. Alas, that’s almost certainly not the case.

As Trump himself likes to note, Bannon joined his campaign late, in August 2016. By that time, Trump had

  • already called Mexican immigrants “rapists,”
  • falsely accused American Muslims in New Jersey of celebrating the 9/11 attacks,
  • said “Islam hates us,” and
  • declared that Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly judge the case against Trump University because was Mexican American.

Bannon’s hiring was not a cause of the Trump campaign’s dalliance with Islamophobia, nativism, and white nationalism. It was a result.

In 1989, when four African American and one Hispanic teenagers (the “Central Park Five”) were arrested for rape, Trump took out newspaper ads declaring that the accused should be executed and “forced to suffer.” When DNA evidence exonerated the young men in 2012, Trump denounced New York City’s decision to compensate them, saying “I think people are tired of politically correct.”

.. Steve Bannon was not advising Donald Trump when Trump demanded to see Barack Obama’s college transcripts and launched a crusade to prove that he was not an American citizen.

.. Bannon was not advising Trump in 2013, when the real estate tycoon tweeted that, “I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz—I mean Jon Stewart” or told Republican Jews that, “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”

.. his Thursday tweet suggesting the United States should look to a false story of  U.S. Army General John Pershing’s supposed war crimes in the Philippines as the right model for how to treat suspected Muslim terrorists, all occurred while he was reportedly weighing Bannon’s firing.

.. reporting suggests that the thing that really bothered Trump about Bannon was his penchant for stealing the spotlight. Not his religious and racial views.