We already discovered that Special Assistant to the President Stephen Miller wouldn’t be living in the United States, pushing a law to cut legal immigration by half, if not for liberal immigration laws that allowed his great-grandfather Sam Glosser into this country in the first place.
The fact is, his family tree would have withered and died long ago—in the pogroms, in the Holocaust, in the gulag – if at the turn of the century the United States didn’t allow his poor, non-English-speaking great-grandfather in.
That bit of irony doesn’t on its own make the law Miller pushed in front of a suitably skeptical press corps last Wednesday bad policy. The reason the bill won’t work — why it will actually hurt American workers and American productivity — can be found in his own family history.
In fact, it’s all about family.
The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or RAISE Act, replaces a system that favors immigrants with relatives already here with a “merit-based” system that grants legal residency green cards based on skills, education and English language ability. Under the bill, immigrants could no longer sponsor visas for extended family members and adult children.
If your aim is to halve the number of legal immigrants to the United States, cutting out family visas should do the trick. In 2014, fully 64 percent of immigrants admitted with legal residency were immediate relatives of American citizens or sponsored by family members
But if the aim of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and David Perdue (R-GA), is to strengthen the economy, local communities and the country, it’s a big mistake.
Why should Miller of all people know that? Because of his family, the Glossers.
Wolf Glosser, Miller’s great-great grandfather, escaped poverty and persecution in Russia and came to Ellis Island on January 7, 1903 aboard the German ship the S.S. Moltke. He had $8.00 in his pocket.
How did Wolf survive? His brother-in-law, Samuel Levine, who had already established himself in New York, helped him get started with a pushcart in the Lower East Side. Soon Wolf’s son Nathan joined him, escaping the misery of Poland. The two migrated up to Pennsylvania, where Wolf’s brother Moses had started a business. Nathan liked Johnstown, he stayed, and Morris Cohen, another Jewish immigrant, loaned him $200 to buy Cohen’s tailor shop, where Nathan was working.
Wolf joined Nathan. Then, on July 9, 1906, Saul, Bella, their mother Bessie and 13-year-old Sam Glosser sailed to America to join their family, and work in the business.
Sam, who was Stephen Miller’s great-grandfather, would eventually run Glossers Department Store—which went on to serve and employ thousands of Americans for generations.
As Robert Jeschonek writes in Long Live Glosser’s, had this Russian Jewish family not been reunited in America, “We might never have had that institution at the heart of our community for eighty years.”
That history shows two fallacies in the RAISE Act.
Limiting family immigration is bad business. Immigrants don’t just build America, families and communities build America.
Cultural and familial ties matter in business because they lower transaction costs, the sociologist Joel Kotkin wrote in Forbes, “Tribal loyalty fosters trust. Cultural affinity supercharges communication. Reading a contract is useful, but you also need to be able to read people. Even as free trade and electronic communications bring the world closer together, kinship still counts. Indians in Silicon Valley team up with other Indians; Chinese-Americans do business with Taiwan and Shanghai.”
In his book Tribes, Kotkin demonstrated how Jewish immigrants tossed into a hostile diaspora, spurned as “elitists” and “cosmopolitans,” were able to thrive: by using trusted bonds of family and community to create strong businesses.
He quotes Ibn Khaldun, a 14th-century Arab historian: “Only tribes held together by a group feeling can survive in a desert.”
By cutting family visas, you cut off the very thing businesses and communities need to grow strong. There is plenty of evidence to show that immigrant families and the ethno-religious tribes they belong to don’t take jobs, but, like the Glosser brothers, create jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, about 90 percent of American businesses are family-owned or controlled.
If Miller et. al. want to switch to a point system, fine—but family and even tribal relations must count.
The other fallacy is that immigrants should speak English. Again, look at the Glossers: they arrived not speaking a word, and they did just fine.
A point system that accurately predicts which immigrants will succeed and contribute to American society could be a fine thing indeed. But as the conservative The Federalist pointed out, if it really works– then why limit immigration at all? Would Tom Cotton really mind if Arkansas, which is ranked #43 for business in the country, imported 50,000 young Sam Glossers?
Aside from Miller, there’s another RAISE Act booster whose family history also demonstrates the proposed law’s flaws.
In 1906 a young Russian Jew named Hyman Korman fled poverty and anti-Semitism in his home country and immigrated to the United States– which took him in.
Hyman settled northeast of Philadelphia. After 14 years, Hyman, according to the editors of Philadelphia Jewish Life, was “still mastering English.” But when a new road sliced through his farm, he saw an opportunity. He bought up surrounding land and began building houses for the expanding city. He turned to family members and fellow Russian Jews to grow the business.
The Kormans grew into one of America’s wealthiest and most philanthropic families. They married with the Honickmans, another incredible Jewish immigrant family success story. Businesswoman and philanthropist Lynne Honickman is the grandmother of Special Assistant to the President Julia Hahn, the former Breitbart staffer who teamed with Miller at the White House to support and promote the RAISE Act. What’s with these two?
Of course there should be effective immigration standards and laws. But Miller and Hahn are both the offspring of very wealthy families because government officials let their extended families in, and because they didn’t use poor English as a reason to deny naturalization.
Well, sort of. It turns out that Miller’s great-grandfather on his father’s side, Nison (Max) Miller, first applied for naturalization in Detroit in 1932. On Nov. 14 of that year he received his reply: “The said petition is hereby denied.”
The officer only stated a one-word reason: “Ignorance.”