Wolf-Leib Glosser fled violence from his small Eastern European village, and with $8 to his name, came to Ellis Island. His children soon followed, and his children’s children were born in the American city of Johnstown, Pa., where the family grew and prospered.
Such is what “chain migration” was like at the turn of the 20th century, and such is the “classically American tale” of the ancestors of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, according to a scathing op-ed written by David S. Glosser, Miller’s uncle, in Politico.
Glosser called his nephew, the key driver of President Trump’s “America First” agenda, an “immigration hypocrite.” He lambasted Miller’s role in crafting the Trump administration’s hawkish immigration policies, namely the travel ban, the “zero tolerance” crackdown at the border that led to the separation of thousands of migrant children from their families, and the effort to curtail legal immigration. Citing national security threats, the Trump administration has called for an end to what the president derides as “chain migration,” a process by which U.S. citizens or permanent residents can sponsor family members to move to the country.
“I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and 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,” Glosser wrote in the op-ed published Monday.
Had the very same immigration policies his nephew “so coolly espouses” been in effect at the turn of the 20th century, when the family’s patriarch, Wolf-Leib, left the small village of Antopol to escape persecution of Jews, Miller’s ancestors would have been “wiped out” before they could make it to the United States, Glosser wrote. They would not have been able to sell goods out of a horse-drawn wagon in Johnstown and grow the business into a haberdashery and, years later, to a supermarket chain and discount department stores run by the next generation of Glossers, including Izzy, Miller’s maternal grandfather.
“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,” Glosser wrote.
The White House press office and Miller did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Glosser, a 68-year-old retired neuropsychologist from Pennsylvania, said he “barely” knows his nephew and had met him only a handful of times. He said the vast majority of family members feel the same way that he does.
The op-ed underlines the glaring differences between Miller, who started as an outspoken conservative activist in high school and college, and some members of his liberal family. The Los Angeles Times described Miller’s parents, Michael and Miriam, as “a Jewish family of longtime Franklin Roosevelt Democrats.”
Glosser, who’s been a vocal critic of the Trump administration and Miller’s role in it, said that as the president continues on his campaign to combat immigration and “make life more difficult for asylum seekers,” he felt the need to voice his concerns to a wider audience.
“The detention of those thousands of children and separation from their parents was a bridge too far,” he told The Washington Post.
Glosser first told his family’s immigration story in a lengthy 2016 Facebook post that highlighted his differences with his nephew.
“With all familial affection I wish Stephen career success and personal happiness, however I cannot endorse his political preferences, and having personally observed and lived through the events of the past 66 years that have shaped the town, my perspective is bound to be different than Stephen’s,” Glosser wrote in October 2016.
The post was prompted by Miller’s visit to Johnstown that month, when the Trump campaign held a rally there. Miller talked for a few minutes about how the small Pennsylvania city became home to his immigrant ancestors.
“Four generations of my family have lived in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. My mother was born and raised in Johnstown. My grandfather was born and raised in Johnstown. My great-grandfather was born and raised in Johnstown. And my great-great-grandfather came here from overseas to start his American Dream,” Miller told the crowd.
Miller then added that Johnstown represented for him “what is possible for America when our government, as it once did, puts the American people first.”
In contrast, Glosser seems to bristle at the “America First” agenda. In his Politico column, he likened it to the “fear and prejudice” that led to closing U.S. borders to Jewish refugees.
Miller is not the only member of the Trump administration whose ancestors came to the United States to join family members. The president himself benefited from “chain migration,” or family reunification, on both sides of his family, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote. The same process allowed first lady Melania Trump to sponsor her parents to come to the United States. Viktor and Amalija Knavs became naturalized citizens last week.