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Success And Immigrants

by Ellen Freeman

Immigration reform has been a primary domestic policy issue and source of debate over the past 18 months. Like no other subject, our treatment of and need for foreigners is an emotionally charged topic for most Americans. It is no longer divided along party lines, religious beliefs or social status: how many aliens can enter, work and reside in the United States matters to everyone.

In all of the business assessments, social services impacts, statistical projections, and enforcement measures, many see immigrants as one uniform group. As an American who immigrated to the United States only 14 years ago, I am surprised at the one-sided view. While it is true that 100 years ago, during the industrial revolution, immigrants were coming to the U.S. to fill general labor jobs to improve economic position for themselves and their families, a lot has changed since then.

Over the past 100 years, political, economic, social and cultural circumstances have changed dramatically in the U.S. and in other countries. Americans engaged in the immigration debate, however, seem blind to the qualities of arriving immigrants. It appears that, when debating the rules of the admission, residence, and citizenship for new immigrants, everyone focuses on landscapers, farm workers, factory workers and similar low-skill jobs that natives typically turn down.

As an immigration attorney and an immigrant myself, I strongly disagree with this picture of new immigrants. The vast majority of my clients, and foreign nationals who I meet around the country, are not economic immigrants. We came here for upward social mobility, something our native countries failed to offer.

We are highly educated, hard-working contributors to American society, the quintessential super-achievers. Doctors in India or the Philippines, attorneys in Russia or Uzbekistan, scientists in Canada, Germany or France are highly-respected and well-paid professionals. It is because we achieved our goals in our ancestral home and could go no further that we came to the United States. Unlike the immigrants who came here 100 years ago for the opportunity to eat, stay warm or simple survival, we came for success.

By recognizing our strength and providing us with opportunities, the United States proves again that it is the world's strongest democracy. In any other non-native country, our accent, race, culture, or background would delegate us to the bottom of the career ladder. Not in America. Here, people are recognized for his or her achievements and potential.

The mutual embrace between immigrants and our new-found motherland is stronger and more lasting. We do not question rules because we grew up with rigid authority. We do not dwell on set-backs because we know we have a long journey ahead. We grab opportunities because we waited for them so long. Are we not the citizens that America should cherish? It is our contributions that add competitive advantages, economic prosperity and cultural diversity, the cornerstones of a successful society.

Unless U.S. laws continue to encourage the best and the brightest not only to study here, but to stay and contribute, the best and most driven people will go elsewhere. We are keenly aware of thousands of American jobs moving overseas. To stop the outflow, America needs to attract and retain the "success" immigrants? Those who create jobs through the money they spend on child care, investments, homes, cars, services and other economic drivers. These are the immigrants who should be considered when Americans debate the final form of our immigration laws.

About The Author

Ellen Freeman is a counsel attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney P.C. She focuses her practice on employment-based immigration such as temporary work visas and permanent residence, including PERM/labor certification applications, preference petitions and consular processing/adjustment of status.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.