29 Mar Immigrants Have Shaped American Culture
I recently read an article titled ‘The Birth of Illegal Immigration’. As the name would suggest, the article describes the history of U.S. immigration policy and the shockingly brief concept of Illegal immigration in America.
Since America is a relatively new country, it’s no surprise that our immigration history is short. But what I think many would find surprising is that we had no immigration laws, whatsoever, for the first 106 years of these United States. Even more surprising is that when you look into the history of American immigration laws, the most shocking revelation is that we have been largely reactionary on immigration; allowing our laws to be dictated by fear and discrimination- not legality.
At one point or another, United States immigration laws have been passed to exclude nearly all Asian countries, Mexicans, black Americans, Africans, Native Americans, Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and more recently Muslim-majority countries. There were also various rules put in place to exclude prostitutes, polygamists, anarchists, poor people, people who couldn’t read, people with contagious diseases, and more recently the ban on refugees.
Certainly the previous and current laws constitute a dichotomy to the legacy of being a place of freedom and acceptance of any who want to come, work hard, and have a chance at the American Dream. And I’d be willing to bet that those who try to exclude people from this country would be surprised to learn that many of the things that we cling to as being American traditions actually came to us from these previously and currently discriminated against immigrants.
For instance, did you know that Steve Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian refugee? If we had the ban against refugees in place at the time of his immigration, the United States wouldn’t be able to claim America as the birthplace of Apple, Inc. We also wouldn’t have Google or YouTube or PayPal without immigration.
Products such as blue jeans, doughnuts, beer, hot dogs, American cheese, ketchup, hamburgers, and basketball are all apart of America culture because of the immigrants that either brought them here or invented them here.
Many of the people we consider pure American came to us through immigration. Gene Simmons emigrated from Israel. Eddie Van Halen emigrated from the Netherlands. Dikembe Mutombo emigrated from Congo. Joseph Pulitzer emigrated from Hungary. “Liz” Claiborne emigrated from Belgium. Madeleine Albright emigrated from Czechloslovakia. I could go on and on. Even America’s unofficial National Anthem, ‘God Bless America,’ was written for us by a Siberian immigrant named Irving Berlin.
And despite what you’ve heard about immigrants taking away American jobs, they are statistically 200% more likely to open a business in the U.S. than an American born citizen. This means immigrants actually create jobs for Americans. In fact, without immigration, approximately 40 billion-dollar American companies wouldn’t exist. Truly, the whole of American culture has been shaped by immigrants and America is better because of it.