America’s generosity is reflected in our immigration system. Throughout our nation’s history (with some shameful exceptions), we have allowed individuals to come to the United States to reunite with family members and offered safety and protection to those who need it most.
Yet the Trump White House publicly opposes these fundamental American traditions and values. Trump administration rhetoric that demands an end to family-based immigration and seeks to shut our doors to asylum seekers is particularly searing, considering many who dwell in the White House today have directly benefited from policies put in place by previous administrations.
The most recent example is First Lady Melania Trump, whose parents became U.S. citizens just last week thanks to her sponsorship. How glad she must be to know her parents are nearby rather than thousands of miles away in Slovenia.
President Trump himself is a by-product of family reunification. Both his paternal grandfather and his mother migrated to the United States to be with siblings. Imagine the comfort they experienced from being reunited with family from across the pond.
The president’s senior advisor and lead on anti-immigration policy, Stephen Miller, can thank America’s generous immigration system for his family’s survival and prosperity. His uncle recently shared the story of their family’s immigration history, noting his maternal grandfather—Izzy Glosser, a Jew from Belarus—arrived at Ellis Island in January 1903 with $8 and no knowledge of English.
Miller’s uncle criticizes the anti-immigrant positions his nephew takes:
“If in the early 20th century the USA had built a wall against poor desperate ignorant immigrants of a different religion, like the Glossers, all of us would have gone up the crematoria chimneys with the other six million kinsmen whom we can never know.”
This is not to say America has always done things right. A famous example of isolationism and anti-immigrant policies costing lives came during World War II, when some European Jews were refused admission to the United States. As a result, some lost their lives during the Holocaust.
This can and may happen again. The administration’s drastic reduction in refugee admissions, it’s blatant refusal to allow in asylum seekers, and its rush to deport those that are admitted will no doubt result in the loss of human life, if it hasn’t already.
Policy choices, as well as the words used to sell them, have consequences. The damaging anti-immigrant rhetoric that comes out of the administration on an almost daily basis not only offends Americans of good conscience, but also serves to divide us. Yet a closed and divided America is not what the majority wants—it’s high time this White House took seriously its responsibility to bring us together and preserve our national traditions and values.