Becoming American: Why Immigration Is Good for Our Nation's Future (7 page)

BOOK: Becoming American: Why Immigration Is Good for Our Nation's Future
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Historically, conservative Americans compose the population segment that is vehemently opposed to amnesty, as they believe it adds incentive to immigrate illegally. Additionally, conservatives view it as rewarding undocumented people for doing something unlawful. Conservatives also have been at the forefront of arguing for tighter border patrol policies in order to solve the illegal immigration issue. They believe that a lack of enforcement has fostered problems such as gang violence and human and drug trafficking. Liberals, on the other hand, have advocated for establishing a system through which undocumented persons could eventually obtain citizenship. In regard to border control, they generally believe the current state of border enforcement is at its strictest.

In addition to the topics of amnesty and border control, discussions on workplace enforcement have been widespread. Liberals believe the United States should strive to hold employers responsible for whom they hire, while conservatives typically favor a more proactive approach. More explicitly, many conservatives advocate for the mandatory nationwide use of E-Verify, a system that crosses an employee’s Form I-9 with records from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration to ensure eligible employment. Conservatives also generally support stricter deportation and detention regulations than their liberal counterparts. While conservatives believe in using the help of state and local governments for enforcement, liberals think immigration regulations should largely be the responsibility of the federal government.

Though the issue of illegal immigration has been a major point of contention, conservatives and liberals seem to hold fairly similar beliefs when it comes to legal immigration. Both support a system that emphasizes family through giving priority to spouses and children of persons already residing in the United States. Recognizing the value immigrants offer to the U.S. economy, conservatives and liberals have also both stated that they wish to attract and to retain immigrants who are highly skilled.
In order to do so, there have been recent discussions about altering the U.S. allocation of visas to establish both an entrepreneur’s visa and one for foreign professionals specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, in addition to eliminating visa quotas for individual countries.

The idea that immigrants are self-selective for persistence and resilience is one that is seen throughout the stories and data. Although many recently arrived immigrants face a wide range of risks, including poverty, discrimination, taxing occupations, sometimes fewer years of schooling, and social isolation, they do better than expected on a wide range of outcomes especially when compared with their counterparts who remain in their country of origin.

Just like the pioneers of the American Old West, immigrants are the ones who have the courage and drive to leave their home countries and who are the world’s most likely to succeed.

Aiding the immigrant’s success is the immigrant’s family. Isolated abroad, immigrants rely heavily on their family and often recruit their family members to join them and work with them. Current U.S. immigration policy works in the favor of the family members of American citizens and permanent residents. Indeed, I trusted no one more than my sister, Margaret, to help me run Intrados.


1. Jeb Bush and Thomas McLarty, “Independent Task Force Report on U.S. Immigration Policy,” Council on Foreign Relations, July 2009, http://
(accessed July 10, 2013).

2. Joseph O’Neill, “The New Immigrant Experience,”
, November 26, 2008,
(accessed July 2013).

3. Cokie Roberts and Steven Roberts, “Think Like an Immigrant,”
Evening Sun
, April 16, 2010,
(accessed July 2013).

4. Luminita Frentiu, Romanian Journal of English Studies, no. 6, 2009; www

5. Kenneth C. Davis, “The Founding Immigrants,”
New York Times
, July 3, 2007,
(accessed August 28, 2013).

6. David Hackett Fischer,
Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Harvard Magazine
“Uneasy Neighbors: A Brief History of Mexican-U.S. Migration,” May–June 2007,
(accessed August 14, 2013).

Harvard Magazine
“Uneasy Neighbors.”

9. Heather Brown, Emily Guskin, and Amy Mitchell, “Arab-American Media,” Pew Research Journalism Project, November 28, 2012,
(accessed July 24, 2013).

10. Azadeh Ansari, “Iranian-Americans Cast Ballots on Iran’s Future,”
, June 16, 2009,
/ (accessed July 24, 2013).

11. “Survey of Iranian Americans: 84% Support Establishing U.S. Interest Section in Iran,”
, December 11, 2008,
(accessed July 24, 2013).

12. Daniel Golden, “Iranians Denied U.S. Visas Hit by Political Crossfire,”
, September 19, 2012,
(accessed August 13, 2013).

13. Michael Hoefer, Nancy Rytina, and Bryan Baker, “Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2011,” Department of Homeland Security,
Population Estimates
, March 2012,
(accessed August 4, 2013).

14. Brianna Lee, “The U.S. Immigration Debate,” Council on Foreign Relations, April 19, 2013, (accessed August 14, 2013).

15. Ashley Parker and Jonathan Martin, “Senate, 68 to 32, Passes Overhaul for Immigration,”
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, June 27, 2013, (accessed August 14, 2013).

16. “Public Opinion Polls on Immigration,” Federation for American Immigration Reform, (accessed August 14, 2013).

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18. “Republican Party of Immigration,” OnTheIssues, (accessed August 14, 2013).

19. “Democratic Party on Immigration,” OnTheIssues, (accessed August 14, 2013). “Republican Party of Immigration,” OnTheIssues, (accessed August 14, 2013).

20. Doug Hardy, “Entrepreneurship-friendly Immigration Reform,” Entrepreneurship of All Kinds, May 2, 2013, (accessed August 14, 2013).


How Did She Get Here: Margaret Ghadar

argaret Ghadar, my younger sister, was born in 1951 in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Soon after, our family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was too young to have any childhood memories of the United States, as we all returned to Iran when she was four years old.

Her youth was spent moving around the Middle East, where our father, Mansour, was an ambassador in places such as Lebanon and Jordan. At the time, her impression of why we were not located in more prestigious locales was that our father was being punished for some undisclosed action. She later came to understand that he was in fact in charge of the Iranian Intelligence Agency and that this stationing was quite strategic and important.

She graduated high school in 1969 from the American Community School in Tehran, where the few Iranian students were unfortunately largely treated as second-class citizens. She was not advised or guided by the school to prepare for postsecondary education. So, since I was already in school at MIT, she asked for my help. Ever the protective older brother, I helped her enroll in Regis College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, an all-girl Catholic institution, not too far from where I was living so that I could keep an eye out for her.

Even though Margaret was used to adapting to different countries, cultures, and climates, the atmosphere perpetuated by the nuns who taught there was restrictive and particularly discriminatory to non-Catholics. Her first month in, she was summoned to Father McMullen’s office to be chastised for not having gone to confession since her arrival, even though it was understood that she was raised Muslim. Her best friend from New York had a similarly unpleasant experience, and so after their first year, they both transferred to Boston University for a bit more independence and freedom.

While in Boston, she met Mourad, a Harvard Business School student in the same program I was in but a year lower. He was the ultimate international student—Egyptian father, British mother, born in Hawaii, grew up in Switzerland, spoke five languages, and now working toward his master’s in the United States. At the age of twenty-one, Margaret and Mourad married and moved to Paris, where he worked for Continental Grain, a commodities trading company. A yearlong move to Rome led to Mourad’s father asking him to join the family commodities trading company back in Switzerland.

It was in Geneva that Margaret found a niche where she was able to put to use her background and talents. She went to work for the Iranian ambassador and was tasked with identifying and recruiting Iranian medical doctors who were working outside of Iran to go back home to practice their profession.

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that her marriage had been mostly a headstrong whim, destined to fail. After five years, she returned to the United States, where our mother was living in Washington, D.C., and she obtained a divorce.

With nothing tying her to one geographic location, she decided to return to Iran, where Lis and I were living. She went to work at an international company that worked with the Iranian stock exchange, a prescient move for her future.

Yet it was not long before the revolution was upon us in Iran. Margaret and Lis stayed indoors together, watching burnings of posters and garbage cans in the streets and people being dragged from stores with displayed images of the Shah.

I was still working for the government and not free to leave the country, but for their safety, Margaret and Lis decided to leave as soon as possible. Because of our father’s deep friendship with King Hussein of Jordan, my wife and sister were put on the next (previously full) Air Jordan daily flight out of Tehran. Meanwhile, our father, seeing the handwriting on the wall, wrote a letter to the Shah saying that he was regrettably handing in his resignation due to pressing health concerns. It was three long months before I was able to leave the country.

The entire family was now uprooted back to Washington, D.C. Fortunately, because Margaret was born in the United States, she was able to pave the way for the immigration of the rest of the family. This was typical and still is of U.S. immigration to America. While I taught at George Washington University, Margaret and Lis helped run The Computer Emporium, the computer store we had opened in the area. Margaret recalls feeling as if this was only a temporary move, and that while it might take a year, or maybe two, eventually things would settle down and we would all go back to Iran. To pass the time, she thought it might be a good idea to get her master’s degree in international finance in order to be prepared for an upward career move once back in Iran.

BOOK: Becoming American: Why Immigration Is Good for Our Nation's Future
9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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