Immigration, both legal and illegal, has been a hot topic in the news. But, as is so common today, I hear very little thoughtful discussion about the topic. The supposed hordes of undocumented aliens crossing our borders are perceived to be bringing disease, plague and pestilence. According to some, millions are marching over the land bringing an end to our American way of life. I am writing this in 2007, but I could just as well have written the same thing in 1907, 1807 or 1607, when I might have been a Native American peeking out from the shores of Virginia looking at John Smith and the rest of the settlers at Jamestown marching over the land bringing an end to my way of life.
I was born in New York City where at times today it is hard to find someone who speaks English as his/her first language. Most of my Real Estate career has been spent managing property in New York. In fact, most of my tenants, employees and contractors were born some place else. Some of these folks brought money, skills and education with them to America, but most came with a nothing but their suitcases and a desire to succeed.
When I was younger, most of my office and factory superintendents were either foreign or first generation born Italian and Irish. The contractors who worked for the buildings were mostly from Greece but there were also a few German Jews. Through the years, I have employed Russians, Czechs, people from the Caribbean Islands, Egyptians, Malians, Israelis, Serbs, Albanians, Croatians, Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, Maltese, Chinese, Koreans, Argentineans, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Turks, Chileans, Columbians, Panamanians, Salvadorians, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Pilippinos, Indians, Pakistani, Afghani and the occasional U.S. born person. Some were exceptional, most were OK, and some were bad employees, but I canít remember anyone who came to be on welfare.
Through the years, I have seen immigrants who began their careers in the United States in the most menial jobs. But those who learned English and acquired skills had the opportunity to become rich by opening their own businesses, and I personally know many who did. Those businesses went on to create jobs for others. The children of those immigrants speak English just as well as any Mayflower descendant. These immigrants have revitalized cities and towns. If it werenít for them, New York City, for example, would have far fewer residents than it has now.
Immigrants donít take jobs from Americans. They add to our economy. We should welcome people who want to be here. My forebears came through Ellis Island; they had no money or skills. All they wanted was to work. The United States gave them a chance. I want the United States to continue to do that same thing for others. Our country is the great place it is because of John Smith and all the immigrants that followed.