President Donald Trump’s approach is out of character for a nation founded by English immigrants about 400 years ago
~By Kenneth Tiven
There are perhaps at least 3.5 million people of Indian origin living in the United States. Most of them have citizenship. Indian-Americans are running big companies in the country. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCO and Sanjay Banga of Mastercard are just a few. There are others in government and many are spread across the arts, entertainment and academic fields. For many people around the world, a life in America has always been a desire.
My own great grandparents came here in the 1890s on one side of the family and in 1900 on the other. My daughter reminded me this week that her maternal great grandparents came to the US almost 150 years ago. These ancestors raised children, sent them to college, and succeeding generations built families and careers. In my experience, despite differences in political allegiances, they always felt that immigration was a key element of America’s future.
That this is not true for every family was made abundantly clear this past week when the uncle of White House advisor Stephen Miller slammed his nephew in a widely circulated internet story regarding Miller’s role as architect of anti-immigrant policies for his boss, president Donald Trump.
Miller, who has been a right-wing ideologue since taunting liberals in junior high school in Southern California, could not have been pleased nor surprised that his uncle recounted why their great great grandfather decided to leave Antopol, Russia: “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,” wrote Dr Sam Glosser about his grandfather.
In the next few years, he managed to bring his wife and children to the US, which was a common immigration pattern then. Miller’s mother is Uncle Sam Glosser’s sister. He adds: “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.”
Miller apprenticed in government working for Jeff Sessions when he was Alabama’s senior senator with a strong anti-immigrant philosophy before becoming attorney general of the US. Miller gets credit for the harsh policy of separating asylum seekers from their children at the border.
Glosser writes: “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 US just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America First” nativists of the day closed US borders to Jewish refugees.”
This family back-story highlights how the attack on immigration seems out of character for a nation founded by English immigrants nearly 400 years ago. And yes, America as had Indians since the beginning, when 17th century explorers mistakenly thought they had landed in India and called the native Americans “Indians.”
—The writer has worked at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN. He also consults for Indian channels