The Theory of Relativity. God Bless America. First and only honorary veteran of the United States.
If you looked at the list above, chances are good that you see three diverse topics. You might recognize the Theory of Relativity as Albert Einstein’s life work, but what about “God Bless America?” If you are a music fan, then you probably know that the composer of that piece was Irving Berlin, who is also famous for penning “White Christmas.”
And the honorary vet? Well, that’s Bob Hope, and the title was one given to him because of his service to the troops over the years.
But what’s the connection between these famous names, aside from the fact that they’re famous?
It’s that they are three of the most famous immigrants in the history of the United States. Bob Hope came from Bristol, England. Irving Berlin was a Russian Jewish immigrant. And of course, Albert Einstein, father of modern physics and Nobel Prize winner, originally came from Germany and eventually came to America in 1933.
Why Do They Come?
Like most immigrants, they came to this country in search of a better life and in Einstein’s and Berlin’s cases, refuge. For many immigrants, this is the primary motivation for leaving their home countries. Today, about three million people living in the U.S. are refugees, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center report. Most of them come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by Myanmar and Ukraine. The refugees from Bhutan and Eritrea round out the top five.
Others, like Dr. Leanh Nguyen, came from Asia. She explains, “I was born in war-torn Vietnam and escaped to Europe as a refugee of Communism. After the refugee camp and then France, I emigrated to the United States for my higher education.”
Additionally, some people choose to leave their countries of origin, not just for their own sake, but also for the sake of their families or others in their circle. For some, that means joining family members that are already in the new country. That was the case with Bob Hope’s family. His father was already living in America. Hope came over with his mother and his six siblings.
For other people, the reason is romantic love; they meet someone who was born in a different country than they were. The practicalities of being together for these immigrants require at least one of the pair to move to a new land.
What Do People Love About This Country?
To be sure, people love America because of the promise. They know that a better life waits for them. However, it’s not enough that they as immigrants will get a new life. Certainly, that’s part of it, but there’s more to it. For some immigrants, like Dr. Leanh Nguyen being able to interact with and give back to the broader circle of people around them is also why they stay in their new land of choice and why they gravitate toward the work that they do.
Nguyen is someone who knows what it means to be the person standing on the “outside” and who has seen firsthand the unspeakable loss that often comes with leaving one’s homeland. Because of her experience, she works with people who have experienced a significant trauma in their lives and not just immigrants. Her clients could be dealing with divorce, an eating disorder, or some other challenge.
She says, “Next to nurturing my children, I consider this calling my highest mission: It is to make deep contact with the desires and fears of fellow human beings and to honor and celebrate the human condition in all its contradictions and promises.”
What Will the Country Lose If Immigrants Go Home?
It’s difficult to think about the American cultural landscape without immigrants like Irving Berlin, Bob Hope, Albert Einstein, or Leanh Nguyen in it. Right now, the plight of immigrants in America and other places around the world is in question. Many don’t want more immigrants in their country for myriad reasons; loss of jobs, security fears; and fear of the unknown top the list of reasons.
Some people who showed up on American shores have opted to leave; right now, many of them are DREAMers, who have returned to Mexico, though not all of them. They have found it easier to go than to continue with their lives in their new country. It’s possibly easier to imagine what life – not just in America but the world – would have been like if Einstein hadn’t come to America (for example). Hindsight is beneficial in that respect.
It is less easy to see what the effects of the current migration out of America will have, though there are already some reports about the immigrants who left America and other adopted lands. They bring their skills back to their country of origin, either because they have been deported or because it was hard to get a work visa or because the red tape made staying too difficult.
Many of these work in the tech industries back in their own countries now; the innovations they could have made in an American company now benefits one in their home country. The education they got in their country-of-choice serves them in their new life. Others left jobs that many wouldn’t want, leaving gaps in those industries that not only cripple these industries but which leave holes that may never be filled.
As Dr. Nguyen points out, if America is to continue to hold a position of leadership in technology and economic growth, a regular stream of immigrants anxious to build a better life is a necessity. These immigrants not only bring a fresh perspective to help American businesses overcome modern obstacles but also serve as a missing puzzle piece by assimilating into the gaps in the workforce. Without immigrants, these gaps in the foundation of the economy begin to cause lasting damage.