Growing up as an immigrant is not easy.
I lived for years without my father who supported us from Korea. In the states my college educated mother had to work night shifts in factories. My grandparents worked well into their old age. All just so that we could afford to live 3 generations in a small house in a rapidly declining neighborhood. They worked hard to give me opportunity. And in turn I had to work hard. While I had opportunity that my family gave me, I had no safety net for failure.
As immigrants, in order to keep up, we need to be stronger, smarter, harder working and more resilient than our native born citizen peers.
We have to prove to the rest of the country that we belong.
In this country, we talk about how small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Did you know that a disproportionately large number of these small businesses are started by immigrants?
We also take pride in our amazing large industries that command the world. Did you know that nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies are founded by first or second generation immigrants?
But that is not the full picture here. We as immigrants are first and foremost people. And as people our worth to this country is not our ability to produce goods and services. Our worth is our experiences, cultures, teachings that we bring over to this country. We are rap music. We are sushi. We are Gangnam style. We are the spices that burn your tongue then have you coming back wanting more. We are art. We are teachings. We are languages made up with beautiful sounds that you can only hope to emulate if your only language growing up was English.
With all this richness and culture that we bring to this country, all we ask is for is the same opportunities to live. To grow. And to thrive.
Citizenship is not a zero sum game. Immigrants are not taking away. Immigrants are coming here to contribute, share and give.
Instead of putting up walls, we need to open doors.