Mary: “I value immigrants and immigration to the nation because…”

June 9, 2015

You asked a quick question but, I am afraid, it requires a long answer. Why do I value immigrants and immigration? There are several reasons:

It’s personal. I am three-generations away from Irish & German immigrants. My husband is a first-generation immigrant, the only child in a large family of modest means, to emigrate from his native country. He came to the U.S. to study in the ’60’s when it was easier to stay and obtain a green card. He worked hard, took advantage of opportunities, became a husband, father, and eventually, a citizen. None of his family members followed his path. His journey to and through America informs my first-hand experience of immigration.

It’s professional. My first career was in the travel industry where many of my colleagues were immigrants and they were for the most part, hard-working, innovative, and effective people. I was privileged to experience working and collaborating with these folks. They broadened my perspective on immigrants and what it means to be an American.

In my second career as an educator in an urban, highly diverse public high school, I encountered students and parents from around the world and from every socio-economic status on a daily basis. Some of my students were undocumented immigrants. In sixteen years of teaching, I developed a more nuanced understanding of the immigrant predicament, an appreciation for their struggles to be Americans and a clearer view of our broken immigration system.

It’s about fairness. In the early ’70’s I was a blue-collar guestworker in Switzerland. It opened my eyes to the discrimination endured by even legal immigrants in a postcard-perfect democracy with a highly-developed economy which served as a magnet at the time for poor Spaniards, Portuguese and Yugoslavians (and the odd American financing her European adventure). I call up that memory whenever I observe the plight of immigrants in the U.S. and the often arbitrary nature of our immigration system.

It’s about the value of our founding principles as embodied in our Constitution. We claim to be the land of opportunity with liberty and justice for all. I believe in those values. They have served us pretty well since the 18th century. We should walk the talk.

In a quick Google search, most studies I browsed through only cited the economic impact of immigrants. I contend, based on my life experience and not on any scientific study, that aspiring to our Constitutional values is an important magnet that draws immigrants to the U.S., enriching and strengthening the country in more than economic ways.

I believe that most immigrants make us stronger as a nation and truer to our ideals. That is why I support rational immigration reform that reflects our core values of fairness, justice and opportunity and protects that system for all