By Andrew Tisch and Mary Skafidas
May 24, 2017
America is at a crossroads. While most Americans view immigration as a cornerstone of our success as a country, some believe immigration should be drastically limited. Others propose restrictions for specific countries. There is a lingering sense that immigrants are stealing our jobs and threatening our security, and a growing push to keep foreigners out and to close ourselves off from the rest of the world.
Sound familiar? We’ve just described America in the winter of – 1917.
The Statue of Liberty stands in New York Harbor in the snow on January 31, 2017 in New York City. With President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, the subject of who can come to America has once again become a hotly debated topic in the country. The executive order temporarily bars immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya, and indefinitely prevents all Syrian refugees, from entering the U.S. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
One hundred years ago, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917, an unprecedented federal law that greatly restricted immigration from the Asia-Pacific Zone, including people from countries such as China, Armenia, Malaysia and Turkey. The act also created a literacy test for immigrants and banned a broad group of “undesirables” including “epileptics,” “imbeciles,” “feeble-minded persons,” “idiots,” “political radicals,” “anarchists,” “polygamists,” “paupers,” “contract laborers,” “persons being mentally or physically defective,” “persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority,” and “vagrants.”
Then, as now, fear, not reason, was driving the public debate on immigration. But today we should have the benefit of hindsight.
It took four decades for the Immigration Act of 1917 to be overturned, as legislators, businesses and the public realized the social and economic value of immigration. In 2017, America can avoid a similar mistake by remembering this history and recognizing that immigrants are the solution to, not the cause of, many of our nation’s toughest challenges.
Let’s start with jobs. Immigrant entrepreneurs are creating many of the higher-paying positions U.S. citizens so desperately need and want. Look no further than Hamdi Ulukaya. As 60 Minutes recently reported, he emigrated from Turkey and started producing Chobani yogurt in upstate New York in 2005. Twelve years later, his staff has grown from five to 2,000 employees, and Ulukaya pays his staff – which features 70% native-born Americans and 30% immigrants like Ulukaya himself – good wages with full benefits. He has also given his employees 10% of the company.
Ulukaya is but one example of a successful immigrant entrepreneur adding value to the U.S. economy. Think of Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, who was born in Moscow. Or Garrett Camp, the co-founder of Uber, who was born in Canada. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was the son of a Syrian immigrant. Go back a little further in time and you’ll find Nordstrom, Colgate, Sara Lee, DuPont, Pfizer, U.S. Steel and countless other iconic brands founded by immigrants. Indeed, over half of all American startups worth $1 billion or more today were founded by immigrants, and their success has provided millions of jobs to people born in America, as well as to immigrants like themselves.
It also isn’t true that immigrants steal American jobs. For the most part, they do the jobs that Americans choose not to do. In an extensive study, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine found that immigration had no negative effects on the hours or wages of any worker with at least a high school degree.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com