I am currently reading for review Patrick Strickland’s The Marauders: Standing Up to Vigilantes in the American Borderlands (Melville House, 2022), due to be published later this month. The book brings home in startling terms the political right’s anti-immigrant actions. The “nativists,” to use Strickland’s term, who oppose the presence of all foreigners in the U.S., are unmistakably racist White supremacists. They tend to be conservative, well-heeled, and Republican. Their chosen leader is Donald Trump.
I find antipathy to immigrants surprising, since we are all descendants of immigrants. The only exceptions are American Indians and Alaska Natives who account for barely one percent of our population. My own heritage is English-Irish-Welsh-Scottish; my ancestors were all immigrants from the British Isles. Nary a native American among them. That description applies to all Americans I know or have ever known. Our ancestors, without exception, all came here from abroad.
And these days it is the immigrants, not the natives, who fuel our economy. Sixty percent of our most valued tech companies were co-founded by first- or second-generation immigrants. Among them were Steve Jobs, a second-generation Syrian immigrant, and Sergey Brin, the Russian immigrant who co-founded Google. And 25 percent of all our companies are founded by immigrants. More than 40 percent of businesses on the U.S. Fortune 500 List were launched by immigrants or children of immigrants. And yet immigrants account for only about 13 percent of our population. Moreover, when immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP.
Immigrants, in short, are far more dynamic than natives in starting and running businesses. The more immigrants the better. We need them. It’s long since time we Americans recognized the contribution of our immigrant population and honored those new to our shores.