Friday, February 22, 2019 -
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No Yiddish-speaking Jews allowed into the US

We think it is quite good enough to say that adults who come to the US illegally do not have many rights here, and that those who would come to the US illegally deserve to be deterred. But the whole idea of trying to figure out who would be a valuable immigrant to the US, and who would not be, leaves us cold.

No one can predict who will end up making a major contribution to American society, and who will not. The criteria for making just such a determination by White House adviser Stephen Miller are ironic and absurd, both in the extreme.

Miller, for example, told reporters that the US should prioritize immigrants who speak English (story, page 1). Well, an enterprising reporter did a little digging and discovered that Stephen Miller’s own great-grandmother would likely have been excluded under this criterion. In the 1910 census, it was noted that Stephen Miller’s own great-grandmother spoke only Yiddish, not English, four years after having been admitted to the US. Had Stephen Miller’s English-only criterion been followed back then, Stephen Miller would not even be in the US, let alone a White House adviser.

There are countless readers of this newspaper who can say the same about their own grandparents or great-grandparents. They only spoke Yiddish upon arrival, and many of them never learned fluent English — but their children did. Their children made immeasurable contributions to American medicine, law, politics, technology and so many other fields. A number of the American Nobel Prize winners can count among their immigrant parents or grandparents those who never mastered English.

We certainly acknowledge that it is critical for immigrants, especially the youth, to learn English; and that the mastery of the language has been dismissed as unimportant in many immigrant subcommunities. That is a problem, and a big one. It calls for rigorous English-language standards for citizenship that the US should require of new immigrants. But it is not a predictor of an immigrant’s ultimate success in the country. That cannot be known by the level of English proficiency upon entry. Speaking personally, the authors of IJN editorials had grandparents or great-grandparents who never became fluent in English. We leave it to your judgement as to whether these editorials, whatever one might think of the opinions herein, reflect fluency in English.

Let Stephen Miller spend his time figuring out how to prevent illegal immigration rather than contracting out Ellis Island to the friendly authors of the SAT and ACT English tests. Miller would be uproarious if his topic were not so serious.

Copyright © 2018 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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