Chain migration, the process immigrants have used for centuries to come to a strange land and find success, was derided by Donald Trump today in his CPAC speech. He used it like a dirty word associated with crime and snakes. But chain migration brought the Trumps to America, though some wish it hadn’t. Friederich Trumpf followed his older sister Katharina who emigrated from Germany two years earlier. Their sister Luise joined them later as part of the family chain or network.
Trump’s grandfather was poor and frail, too frail in his own mind to do his military service so he absconded. Sound familiar? Some would say, Germany wasn’t sending its best, but they didn’t send him. He escaped in the middle of the night. Speaking only German, he lived with his sister and brother-in-law in a neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan filled with dozens of other people and relatives from their German hometown of Kallstadt. Immigrant connections helped him to get his first job. That’s how chain migration works.
From the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to the Trumps, the migration of extended families was crucial to the peopling of America. A long history of “Kettenwanderung” (chain migration) helped the Germans to people whole towns and regions in the midwest. Groups that couldn’t or didn’t bring extended families, like the early Chinese and Italians, faced the biggest problems like prostitution and brawling.
Lacking family and women who shared their language and culture, large numbers of Italian and Greek men took all their savings and went back to their homeland, as did grandfather Trump. Only he was forced to leave Germany for defrauding the military, a serious crime. He left Germany twice as a criminal. Some people would call him a snake. The President would shut the door in his own grandfather’s face.