I am a "lawful" immigrant in the U.S. from India.
Like many others, I came to this country with a Student Visa, completed my masters degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology, had 18 months of practical training and applied for my green (U.S. Permanent Resident) card. Processing took more than a year and multitudes of visits to the American Consulate in Chennai, India. Finally, in 1968, my wife and I entered the U.S. as Permanent Residents.
Five years later, we became legally naturalized U.S. citizens.
We knew the process to be long and competitive. We understood that nobody owes us our U.S. citizenship. We went through the process to fulfill our dreams.
When opportunities in our motherland shrank because of a controlled economy, we were forced to look at America and its open doors. We never took our American citizenship for granted.
Once established in this country, we were able to bring our close family, my father and sister, my wife's mother and brother to the U.S as well. All of us benefited from our migration.
All of us were productive, taxpaying and lawful immigrants.
When my wife and I sponsored members of our family for American visas, we pledged our financial support to them. We kept those promises. We provided for their room, board, education and other financial and societal needs.
We are not the exceptions. This story has been repeated by millions of lawfully naturalized American citizens.
This country is built by immigrants. Initially, they came to this country fleeing political, economic and religious persecution. Later, they also arrived seeking a better future. America continues to be the land of freedom of thought, expression and action. In spite of all the political rhetoric, the total number of persons entering the country as lawful Permanent Residents has not dropped and continues to be around
1.1 million per year.
While lawful immigrants need America's open doors, America needs these immigrants more.
Importantly, America needs the "Immigrant Spirit" rather than an "Entitlement Culture".
You see the Immigrant Spirit everywhere in the U.S.
When my wife goes to the nail salons, she is courteously attended by the whole family of
Small motels, Dunkin' Donuts and Subway Sandwich shops are most likely owned and operated by Asian Indians.
Korean immigrants have formed a dry cleaning store network.
Seven Elevens are full of Ethiopian franchisees.
Many Pakistani's make their living in gas stations and small grocery stores.
The restaurant industry is enriched by Italian, Chinese and Bangladeshi immigrant owners.
Jewish settlers from Europe and Russia have formed powerful support system for their new immigrants.
This immigrant spirit is found in the thousands of physicians, nurses and other health care workers from Asia, Africa and the middle east who form the bedrock of American Hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.
It is seen in the immigrant professionals risking their secure jobs to explore new "start ups".
"The immigrant spirit" was best exemplified by my father when he came to this country as a Permanent Resident sponsored by us. He would have been eligible for a small Supplemental Social Security
Income (SSI) without doing any work in the U.S. He could have chosen to stay retired.
Instead, at the age of 66, he chose to find a job, work for 10 more years and retain his personal dignity by getting eligible for full social security benefits in the U.S.
"The immigrant spirit" is found in their self reliance, hard work ethic, respect for law and order, and nurturing support of their family. It is evident in these immigrants' abhorrence of handouts. It is founded on their unshaken spiritual faith.
In fact, "the immigrant spirit" is closely akin to the original U.S. pioneer mentality.
It is the Immigrant Spirit that boldly takes on President John F. Kennedy's famous challenge:
"Ask not, what the country can do for you
But ask, what you can do for your country".