Why I Want Poor Immigrants to Come to the U.S.

Okay, so a political post, as I promised. Yeah, I’m going to talk about immigration. I like immigration. I want more of it. Many people don’t. Oh, I know, all you we-must-restrict-immigration folks are not against immigration. You’re against illegal immigration. But what that means in practice is passing and enforcing laws that are intended to stop a great deal of immigration. I don’t care how you spin that, it is clearly not a pro-immigration position. But don’t worry. This is not a rambling immigration rant. I am going to narrow my topic for this post to the matter of poor immigrants.

There are lots of people who do a lot of complaining about poor immigrants coming to the U.S. This has been true since the start of the United States, and even then it was merely a continuation of the complaining that had been going on when the few states on the east coast of the continent were just British colonies. Poor immigrants take jobs and drive down wages, so the complainers say. Poor immigrants don’t learn the language. They don’t assimilate to our culture. They are a drain on public resources. They are dirty and ignorant and contribute nothing. They will be the ruination of this country. Except of course, they have not. And I want to talk about that.

In the late 1800’s, a family by the name of Wonskolaser settled in the U.S. They were from Poland, and they were poor. They were not highly skilled workers. They were not scholars. They struggled to get by and support a growing family. They were just the sort of immigrants some folks talk about trying to keep out of the U.S. But the U.S. is better off for the Wonskolasers having come here.

Why do I say that? Well, see, three of their boys, Hirsz and Aaron and Szmul, managed to buy a movie projector and started showing films in mining towns. Then they opened a movie theater. Then they started making films. And eventually those young men, along with their younger brother, founded a little company called Warner Brothers Pictures. Yes, that Warner Bros. The one that gave us The Jazz Singer, the first talking picture, and 42nd Street, one of the best musicals ever made, and Casablanca, one of the best movies ever in the history of filmmaking.

And speaking of films made by Warner Bros., among them is a wonderful film called Little Caesar. One of the actors in that film is an immigrant from Romania. His family was poor too. He came to this country as Emmanuel Goldenberg. He is better known as Edward G. Robinson, one of the finest actors of his generation. In addition to Little Caesar, he was in such films as Double Indemnity and Key Largo

But the influence of poor immigrants was not just felt in the movies. Poor immigrants Moses and Lena  Beilin moved to the U.S. from what is now Belarus. They brought with them a little boy named Israel. He grew up to write such songs as “Always” and “Blue Skies” and “White Christmas”. Oh, and a little ditty called “God Bless America”. Yeah, Irving Berlin, one of the greatest writers of American songs ever, came from a poor immigrant family.

That is just three examples, and if I had time I could go on and on and on about the contributions of poor immigrants to these United States. Poor immigrants who came to the U.S. and made the U.S., and the world, a richer and more beautiful place.

But times are different now, I can guess some of you might tell me. And we developed the ability to foretell the future exactly when? We cannot foretell who will make a significant contribution to America. We cannot plan it. We cannot predict it. That has not changed. So don’t tell me that restricting immigration to highly skilled workers and scholars and the like is reasonable. I can plainly see that it is not.

Will they change the country? Sure they will. So will trying to keep them out. But frankly, I don’t want to live in the Fahrenheit 451 style police state that we will grow into if we continue trying to keep more and more people from immigrating to the U.S. But I do want the next Warner Bros., the next Edward G. Robinson, the next Irving Berlin to come here and contribute to the magnificent culture that is the U.S. of A. So yes, I want poor immigrants to come here. As many as are willing to come.

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