Article originally posted in and nationally syndicated by the American City Business Journals on August 8, 2017.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Those iconic words by Emma Lazarus, enshrined on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, represent one of America’s most inspirational ideals of those yearning to build a better life for themselves and their families in the United States.
Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser, was insensitive to the significance of Lazarus’ poem during a recent White House press conference about the proposed Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act when he stated the poem was added to the Statue of Liberty after it was built. The act would reduce the number of less-skilled immigrants to the United States described in Lazarus’ poem.
The RAISE Act was publicly announced at a White House press conference on Aug. 2 by President Trump and senators David Perdue, R-Ga., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. The proposed legislation aims to cut green card immigration in half and would favor immigrants who “can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” according to Trump.
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., outlined the problems the RAISE Act would cause in the following statement: “I’ve always supported merit-based immigration. I think we should always want to attract the best and brightest to the United States. Unfortunately, the other part of this proposal would reduce legal immigration by half, including many immigrants who work legally in our agriculture, tourism and service industries. South Carolina’s number one industry is agriculture and tourism is number two. If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy, which relies on this immigrant workforce.”
Why not just leave the number of green card immigrants at levels sufficient to avoid the labor shortages and its impact on business that concerns Graham? President Trump has said that immigrants take jobs away from American workers. This was refuted by Graham, who stated: “South Carolina’s agriculture and tourism industry advertise for American workers and want to fill open positions with American workers. Unfortunately, many of these advertised positions go unfilled. Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers will tell you this proposal — to cut legal immigration in half — would put their business in peril.”
Study after study show that immigrants are good for business and have a positive impact on the economy. Many immigrants are entrepreneurial. They start small businesses, create jobs, pay taxes and revitalize our inner cities. Some work two or three jobs to provide the needed resources so their children can go to college.
Immigrants work on farms harvesting our food. They build our houses, shingle our roofs, babysit our kids and mow our lawns.
An August 2012 report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group of mayors and business leaders, indicates that in 2011, of all new businesses started in the U.S., 28 percent were started by immigrants. The report also stated that immigrants were more than twice as likely to start a business as those who are native born.
Immigrants at all socioeconomic levels who come to the United States are motivated to succeed, whether they run small businesses or world-class enterprises. If passed into law, the RAISE Act would exclude a significant number of immigrants who would contribute to our future economic growth.
Some immigrants have had a transformational impact on the United States and on the world. To name a few: Sergey Brin (Google), Jerry Yang (Yahoo), Elon Musk (Tesla/SpaceX) and Pierre Omidyar (eBay). Their companies are on the cutting edge in their respective fields and play a key role in the technical and economic competitiveness of the U.S.
Quoting a National Foundation for American Policy brief dated October 2016, “Immigrants have been awarded 40 percent, or 31 of 78, of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in Chemistry, Medicine and Physics since 2000. In 2016, all six American winners of the Nobel Prize in economics and scientific fields were immigrants.”
So, how many immigrants will be denied entry into the U.S. by the proposed RAISE Act legislation whose children or grandchildren may be future Nobel Prize laureates?
Immigrants played a major role in building our country. My grandparents, as did so many other immigrants, came to the U.S. in the early 1900s from Ukraine and Belarus to escape religious persecution as well as to seek a better life and economic opportunity for their children and for future generations. Two of my four grandparents were not fluent in English and had a limited education. They would have not qualified for entry to the U.S. under RAISE Act legislation.
My grandparents worked long hours in multiple jobs and were motivated to succeed for their families, not unlike many of today’s immigrants. Their children, first-generation Americans, were successful professionals and entrepreneurs who created jobs. My generation continues to build on the success of our parents’ generation.
Immigration is what has made our country great. Our immigration policies should welcome immigrants regardless of their socioeconomic status and embrace the ideals of Lazarus’ poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.