Immigration is looking to play a crucial role in the 2020 election. Donald Trump ran and won the presidency on a platform of increased border security, tighter restrictions on immigration, and the building of a physical wall along the southern border. On the other side of the aisle, repealing section 1325 of the U.S. Code—the portion that makes it a criminal offense to enter the country through improper channels—was a primary issue during the first Democratic debate.
No matter your views on American immigration policy, we should all take time to appreciate the many ways in which immigrants make our lives better on a daily basis.
No, this isn’t an exhaustive list. But these are just below are a few examples of how immigrants drastically improve our great American experiment.
Immigrants are Creative Entrepreneurs
In 2017, the Center for American Entrepreneurship analyzed Fortune 500 data and found that 216 of the companies on Fortune’s list had at least one founder who was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. That’s 43 percent. These companies employed over 12.5 million workers and generated nearly $5.3 trillion in revenue. Among their founders are Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney. So the next time you’re checking out the new Tesla roadster, reading an article like this on your iPhone, or walking with your kids around the “happiest place on earth,” take a moment to appreciate that an immigrant played a major role in bringing you that experience.
Even Chevrolet, which has become a quintessential American icon, was founded by Swiss race-car driver Louis Chevrolet. In fact, despite making up less than 14 percent of the population, immigrants account for 28 percent of small business owners. It seems as though many immigrants really do come here to pursue the American Dream.
Immigrants Give Back to Their Communities
Cyrus Tang was a Chinese-born immigrant who moved from Hong Kong to the United States in 1950 as a student. He became an incredibly successful businessman in the areas of steel, pharmaceuticals, and furniture, but instead of basking in his success, he decided to give back. He has donated millions of dollars to foundations to help build schools in rural areas and has provided scholarships for over 100,000 students. And this is not a rarity. Immigrants are constantly finding ways to strengthen their communities. In fact, the second-largest philanthropic organization in the United States, Open Society Foundations, is run by Hungarian-born investor George Soros. Open Society Foundations works on a number of issues, including criminal justice reform and democratic participation. Immigrants consistently sacrifice their time, energy, and resources to help build up those around them.
Immigrants Enhance Our Culture
Whether it’s art, aerobics, cinema, music, clothing, or cuisine, immigrants contribute to the beautiful tapestry that is American culture. Think about your go-to sushi joint or your favorite Mexican restaurant. Your weekly yoga class or your local pilates studio. All of these originated in other countries and came to the U.S. because of immigrants. The inventors of the hotdog and hamburger were both immigrants. American rock legend Eddie Van Halen was born in the Netherlands, and his family immigrated to the United States when he was a kid. Despite what many believe, rather than detracting from or weakening American culture, immigrants improve our culture and show us new and better ways to live.
Topics like immigration can be particularly divisive. Each side is incredibly passionate about what they believe, and it makes sense that they would be. But even in disagreement, we can still find common ground—maybe, just maybe, we can all agree that immigrants truly do make our lives a little richer each day.