Stephen Miller’s insufferable uncle

Politico has published a opinion piece by David Glosser called “Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.” Glosser’s piece is a shrill, hyper-personal rant of the “Give me your tired, your poor” genre. But for Glosser’s status as Stephen Miller’s uncle, I don’t think Politico would even have considered running it.

Glosser’s great-grandfather came to America from what was then Russia and now is Belarus (my father’s father also came here from there). Glosser’s thesis is that if Trump administration immigration policies, which Miller helped craft, had been in effect in the early 20th century, Miller’s forebears (and Glosser’s) would not have been able to immigrate to the U.S. Instead, they would have been wiped out by German Nazis. Therefore, Miller is a hypocrite for pushing these policies.

Glosser makes no real effort to support his claim that Trump’s policy would have stranded his great-grandfather in Belarus. Trump has not ended the taking in of refugees. Rather, he has cut the number of refugees admitted per year in about half — down to 45,000 per year — with further cuts a possibility.

Would Jews facing pogroms in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, and Jews threatened by Nazism 30 years later, have been among those excluded under a Trump-like refugee policy implemented back then? There’s no way to say for sure, but I think it’s unlikely they would have been. Nor does Glosser engage this question.

Glosser cites Trump’s temporary travel ban. It applies to a handful of countries that are sworn enemies of the U.S. and/or in a state of anarchy, and/or hotbeds of terrorism. Russia was not such a nation when Glosser’s great-grandfather came here.

The travel ban is a red herring. It features in Glosser’s diatribe as a hack lefty talking point, not a serious argument about the Glosser-Miller family. The real question is whether Trump’s policies would prevent victims of pogroms — organized massacres of Jews because of their religion — from coming here as refugees. There’s no reason to believe it would.

Modern-day refugees are sometimes targeted for violence because of their religion, but many are exposed to the danger of violence because they live in war ravaged areas or because they chose the losing side in a civil war. That’s typically the case with refugees from Syria, for example. Some refugees — e.g., from Central America — are fleeing high crime regions.

These individuals often have sympathetic stories and, though there are limits to the number of such people we realistically can take in, one can certainly argue that the U.S. should admit them in numbers closer to those chosen by the Obama administration (or even higher) than the numbers preferred by Trump and Miller. But their situations differ from those of Jews subjected to pogroms, and one cannot infer from cuts in the number of such refugees we now admit that Glosser’s great-grandfather would not be admitted in a Trump administration. Yet, this is the basis for Glosser’s accusation that his nephew is a hypocrite.

Glosser also discusses chain migration. Trump and Miller would like to limit such migration to spouses and the underage children of legal immigrants. It seems (I can’t tell for sure) that Glosser’s grandfather (Miller’s great-grandfather) came here as an adult. Thus, he wouldn’t have qualified for chain migration through his father under the policy Miller prefers.

But if Glosser’s grandfather was under assault by Jew-hating Russians, he would likely have been able to come here under Trump-Miller policy. If he wasn’t, it’s not clear why he should have been admitted.

Is Miller a hypocrite for opposing a chain migration policy that may have benefited his great-grandfather (and therefore himself). I don’t think so. You don’t have to favor lotteries just because your great-grandfather won one and you are still benefiting from it.

Glosser laments that Miller “repeat[s] the insults and false accusations of earlier generations against. . .refugees to make them seem less than human.” This claim is too much even for the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. He says he is “not aware of any instance in which Miller himself has publicly engaged in the. . .vicious public dehumanization of immigrants.”

Glosser cites none. He is slandering his nephew.

Glosser also misses a critical distinction between immigrants like his forbears and today’s Muslim immigrants. Today’s Muslim immigrants belong to a religion, an influential faction of which hates America, its values, its laws, and its non-Muslim citizens. Eastern European Jews belonged to no such religion.

One can debate the extent, if any, to which this consideration should inform American immigration policy. But one cannot honestly deny the distinction, pretending that security concerns about large-scale immigration from certain Muslim nations are the modern equivalent of canards about European Jews.

Glosser concludes that “immigration reform is a complex issue that will require compassion and wisdom to bring the nation to a just solution. . .” True. But it will also require realism, clear thinking, and considerably more intellectual honesty than Uncle David is able to muster in his nasty attack on his nephew.

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