Trumps grandfather arrived in New York from Germany to join sister in 1885, and Pence also a descendant of family-based migration
Donald Trump, his vice-president and some of their closest political allies are all products of the so-called “chain migration” that Trump says brings “truly evil” people to the US, according to historical records.
The president and other Republicans have in recent months stoked fears about immigrants to America bringing their relatives into the country behind them, supposedly flooding the US with unskilled workers.
“Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil,” Trump said in a Tweet last November. “NOT ACCEPTABLE!” He has promised to overhaul America’s system of visas for foreign relatives of US citizens or permanent residents, restricting the permits to spouses and young children.
Trump’s anger about the system was heightened by the discovery that Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi man behind a botched bombing of a New York subway station last month, had entered the US on a visa for family members.
Professor Mae Ngai, a specialist in immigration history at Columbia University, said Trump operated from a position of “racist ignorance” and was attempting to suppress a phenomenon that helped build generations of American families.
“It’s inherent to the process of migration itself,” Ngai said in an email. “It’s a natural part of the human condition – to want to move to better one’s condition, and to want to be with one’s family.”
Like millions of other Americans, Trump owes his existence to ancestors on both sides of his family having been allowed to travel from Europe to join relatives who had already settled in the US.
In October 1885, Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, arrived in Manhattan as a “gangly 16-year-old boy” fleeing poverty and military service in Germany to live with his sister Katherine, according to Gwenda Blair’s book The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a Presidential Candidate.
“Friedrich Trump was not going to be alone,” Blair writes. “His oldest sister had immigrated to New York a year earlier, at 23. There she joined her fiancé, a shipping clerk from Kallstadt … He had come to America after two older cousins set up a wine business in New York City.” Another Trump sister, Louise, later followed her siblings from Germany to the US.
Friedrich, who worked as a barber, became a US citizen in 1892. A decade later, he briefly returned to Germany, married Elizabeth Christ, and then brought her back to the US to live with him. Their son, Fred, married Mary Macleod, who gave birth to Donald in 1946.
Macleod had immigrated to New York in 1930 from Scotland. “Unskilled and unemployed, she lived with her married sister in Astoria, Queens,” according to Blair’s book. Ngai noted that under Trump’s plan to ban visas for residents’ siblings, “if his mother were coming to the US today, she’d be excluded”.
Vice-president Mike Pence, who this week echoed Trump by promising in an interview “we’re going to end chain migration”, is also a descendant of family-based migration to the US from Europe.
In April 1923, Pence’s grandfather, Richard Cawley, arrived in New York at the age of 20 with little money, having fled war-torn Ireland. He would join an uncle and an older brother, who had paid for his passage to the US, according to records obtained by the New York Times.
Crawley then moved to Chicago, where he worked as a streetcar driver for the city transit authority and married Mary Maloney, a Chicago native whose parents had both emigrated to the US from County Clare in Ireland.
In an anecdote Pence tells during speeches to minority groups, he recalls his great-grandmother walking his grandfather to the top of a hill, gazing out west and telling him that he needed to leave for the US.
“You need to go to America because there’s a future there for you,” Pence quotes her as saying.
The ironic contrast between Trump’s venomous rhetoric on migrants and the backgrounds of him and his team was noted on Thursday by Jennifer Mendelsohn, an author and genealogy enthusiast.
Mendselsohn responded to a tweet about chain migration from Dan Scavino, Trump’s director of social media, by highlighting a string of Scavino’s ancestors who appeared to have emigrated to the US in succession during the early 1900s.
Perhaps the most vocal proponent of Trump’s attack on “chain migration” is Stephen Miller, a senior White House adviser, who previously worked for Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general and a fellow immigration hardliner.
Miller’s own family chain was traced by the Jewish Journal back to his great-great-grandfather, Wolf Glosser, who reportedly fled Belarus and landed in New York aboard the German ship SS Motke in January 1903.
According to a 1918 book, Distinguished Jews of America, Glosser arrived with just 27¢ in his pocket. He borrowed a dollar and used this to start buying and selling junk.
“He was eventually joined by his son, Natan, a tailor, and his brother Moses, who had arrived earlier, having escaped conscription in the czar’s army,” according to the Journal’s Rob Eshman. They moved to Pennsylvania. In 1906, Wolf’s wife, Bessie, and three other children immigrated to the US as well.
The family built their way up from a one-room tailor’s shop bought with a $200 loan to preside over Johnstown’s upscale Glosser Brothers department store. Wolf’s son Sam had a son, Isadore, whose daughter Miriam is the mother of Trump adviser Stephen.
Delivering remarks at the White House last August, Miller complained that under “unfettered chain migration”, newcomers were bringing poorer relatives to the US who “immediately go on to public assistance”. He pledged that the Trump administration would instead change the system to attract “high-wage” people from overseas.
Read more: www.theguardian.com