In Defense of Immigration

Americans have a curious and strange relationship with the rest of the world. We love to be the “top dog.” We are the guys who know what is right and we don’t stand for contrasting opinions. The U.S. wants to influence the rest of the world until it becomes too difficult, and then we want to retreat back to our borders.

We view immigration the same way. We embrace the idea of the Statue of Liberty, but every so often that idea clashes with our national psyche and we want all those “foreigners” to go away. We are afraid that we are losing our culture, religion or language to an invading horde. But, it is that horde that is one of the reasons our economy and nation continue grow and remain dynamic.

If immigrants are such a problem, then why have I seen entire neighborhoods revitalized by their hard work? Dilapidated housing is rebuilt using the money earned by being employed in the American economy. Businesses are opened by immigrants who struggle to communicate to their customers in a language that is foreign to them. Aren’t those businesses contributing to the greater United States economy?

Every time an immigrant rents an apartment, store or an office from me, is the rent he/she pays inferior to what an American-born tenant would pay? When I employ contractors to renovate space so that I can rent to a foreign-born or U.S.-born tenant, is there a difference? I know that without these immigrants, my business would be less successful.

How can anyone say that the immigrant population is diminishing our culture or making us less “American?” What is more American than potato pancakes, macaroni, rice and beans, wonton soup or an enchilada? When Leno or Letterman utter a Yiddish expression, is there any American who feels violated?

You can’t be a “real American” unless you can embrace the differences. The only foreign influence is one that has been in the U.S. for less than a generation because at the end of one generation, the immigrant and his family have been assimilated into our culture. As an American, I can’t be anything but welcoming to those coming to our shores in search of an American dream. Every immigrant from the Guatemalan gardener to the Bangladeshi waiter to the Polish plumber enriches my life both economically and culturally.

There are no “illegal immigrants,” but rather people who have a desire to live the dream that is the United States. To criminalize people who have done nothing more than come to our nation to work is criminal. We would not be the great nation that we are if it were not for hundreds of years of continuous rebirth brought by new arrivals.

My business experience has taught me that there is not a difference whether I sell a house to a person born in Utah or Uzbekistan. If my vacant apartment is rented to a fellow from Shanghai or Richmond, I can’t tell the difference in their money. If the Owner I am working with is from Dublin, Dubai or Detroit, it makes no difference since the investment is in the United States. Immigrant capital that is invested in the U.S. or immigrant labor that is produced in this country only contributes to and strengthens our economy.

BOLA TANGKAS