On this MLK weekend, I hope this message gets past the automated screeners that keeps people from seeing political messages they don’t agree with on Facebook… because the issue of immigration is one that I think should transcend those divides. I simply want to share my story. With everyone.
Part of what is being debated right now are two immigration policies the president dislikes. One is called the “lottery” and the other “chain migration”.
The lottery awards 50,000 green cards a year, and each year people from different countries are eligible. No more than 7% of the visas in any given year can come from one country. Only people with at least a high school diploma are eligible. Once a person wins, he or she and their immediate family (spouse and minor children) has to undergo the full background check, before receiving a green card.
Who applies? Strivers like my father and mother apply! People determined to come to America not to suckle on its teet but to work hard and with enthusiasm, start businesses (as my parents did) and give their children a chance at making a run at the greatest dream in world History – the American Dream.
This issue is personal to me, because my mother won that lottery, from her birth country of Romania, in 1987. At the time, the three of us where in the United States without documents. My mother was in the process of being sponsored by the school where she taught as a Hebrew teacher. We had expected not to see my brothers for years while that process unfolded.
The lottery was another beautiful gift from America to our family.
My mother was able to sponsor my father and me. But not my two brothers who were over 18 and serving in the Israeli military at the time.
Here is where “chain migration” comes into play.
About half of the annual legal immigration in the US is chain migration. That’s approximately half a million chain migrants a year. Of those, 95%+ are spouses, children, or parents. All of whom have to undergo the full background check.
What can be more humane and just and American than allowing families to be united?
Through that immigration policy, my parents were able to sponsor my brothers. It took my brothers years to go through the background process. But eventually, they, too, thanks to this policy, earned a green card. And our family was unified.
All we’ve done since then is create thousands of jobs. Contribute tens of million in productivity and gains to the American economy. And raise beautiful children whose proximity to grandparents and parents who experienced the bounty of America so closely, have learned to love and appreciate America – and be prepared to speak up in defense of its greatest strength – its diversity.
My love for America knows no bounds. My pride in being an American — and in being part of the American people, and the American credo of E Pluribus Unum (from many, one) — knows no bounds.
And that is why my heart breaks.
It hurts me to see this great nation succumb to one of the worst instincts of humanity — selfishness.
When in history have we looked back at acts of selfishness and regarded then with pride?
Combined with the faulty economic argument of “America/ns first”, which disregards that the “pie” is not finite; that our population is aging; that in every modern economy there are jobs the natives will simply be unwilling to do; that bringing in hungry, passionate, enthusiastic new Americans has been how, generation after generation, we have renewed, and rekindled, and nurtured the American ethos.
We all benefit from those wide-eyed immigrants, who come here with an appreciation for the uniqueness and greatness of this nation that many natives have long ago forgotten.
Let us not become the generation that willfully breaks with America’s founding spirit — the one that call for the nations of the world to give us their hungry, their poor, their dispossessed.
Yes, we want PhDs coming to America. But not only PhDs. But if we define merit by skin color or nation of origin, and then by educational term, but we forget to love the idea of a unified family; forget to love the idea of the strivers willing to go to any length to experience the American dream for themselves and more often for their children and grandchildren; forget to love the hungry and the poor and the downtrodden; than we will no longer be great.
I call on all of you to speak up. Call your senators and members of Congress. Dare to speak to family and friends. Support local and national candidates who “get” it. Vote!
I call on you to realize that the greatest of America is not a given, is not a birthright. It’s the product of hard work by those who came before us and fought to perfect the union.
That fight belongs to us now.