Immigration And The American Dream
America is a diverse country built through many decades of hard work by generations of immigrants like my grandparents and likely yours. America truly is a melting pot.
My great-grandfather, Luigi Vallorani, left his home in Italy for America because he believed the streets here in the New World would be paved with gold. After he left the military in Italy, he knew he did not want to scratch a living from the rocky mountain terrain like the rest of his farming family.
When he arrived, however, he quickly learned the truth about the streets of America. They were not paved with gold, and it was the Italians who were doing the paving! Luigi worked hard in the steel mills and coal mines, alongside many others who had come over to make a better life. Saving every penny to get him closer to his goals, eventually Luigi opened and operated a restaurant and a grocery store—bringing the riches of his culture to the American economy.
Like most immigrants during this time in America’s history, Luigi was processed quickly upon arrival and immediately considered to be an American. He embraced his American citizenship with pride and committed to learn all about his new nation — its history, language, laws, and culture.
Luigi’s son, Eugene, and his Italian-born wife, Italia, were as American as apple pie and baseball, enjoying both while raising their children in a diverse neighborhood of Italians, Irish, and African-Americans on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Sadly, however, when it comes to immigration many people today have traded the optimism and simplicity of their day for divisive politics and bureaucracy. I have met people from all over the world—not just Latin America but also Ireland, Australia, and even Canada—who simply cannot start a new life in this country despite the value they could bring because of long-standing government policy.
For many, it is virtually impossible to emigrate to the US legally today. The rules are very different and more complex from what they were in Luigi’s time. Many don’t have the luxury of waiting for mounds of paperwork to be processed. Red Tape is no joke; I’ve heard stories of people sending in the same paperwork two or three times because government officials claim it simply went missing.
Few if any politicians or political parties have properly articulated a sound plan for immigration that is practical and amenable to permitting additional citizens while also ensuring the safety of the current citizenry.
In general terms, the Democratic Party’s platform proposes opening the country’s doors widely, including granting amnesty to immigrants who arrive illegally.
Critics of such a platform argue that these policies incentivize immigrants to latch onto entitlement programs offered at taxpayer expense, which is ultimately a major disservice to them—and the taxpayer.
None of my immigrant ancestors would have taken a dollar from the government or charity. It would have been against their principles. Their attitude was a simple, “No thanks. We earn our own, and we take care of our own. If we face wolves, we’ll figure out how to play the mandolin anyway.” We’ve lost a lot of that sense of self-reliance.
On the other side of the aisle, the Republican Party’s platform and proposals generally focus more on ensuring the safety of the current citizenry, often at a cost to potential immigrants. Critics of these policies will argue that the party’s efforts to keep foreigners out appeal to and incite xenophobia.
Something is wrong with this picture. What’s the solution? Is there one?
I implore our leaders and our country’s citizens to welcome immigrants into this country, legally and efficiently, with reasonable requirements: understand and agree to uphold the Constitution of the United States, honor its laws, create income through gaining employment or building a business, pay taxes, commit to learning our language, and peacefully and lawfully integrate into our society. Those who come with a hatred for America or wish to overthrow our government or harm our citizens, however, should be forever barred.
Our country is as strong as it is today because our immigrant ancestors risked everything to come here, and were more than willing to work hard to make their dreams come true. The American Dream is still alive and well. I believe this is what makes—and will keep—America great.
Brandon Vallorani is CEO of Vallorani Estates and the author of The Wolves and the Mandolin: Celebrating Life’s Privileges In A Harsh World with ForbesBooks. Learn more at valloraniestates.com.