I hope that these faces, and the stories that accompany them, serve as a reminder that immigration isn’t just a part of our heritage. New Americans are just as much a force for good now, with their energy, idealism and love of country, as they have always been.
I write about a champion runner who barely survived ethnic violence in East Africa, and who told me, “America has given me everything I dreamed of as a boy.” I share the story of a young man from France who followed his dream to become an American soldier, and went on to earn the Medal of Honor. And readers may recognize two distinguished citizens who fled prewar Europe as children, and who each became U.S. secretary of state.
The backgrounds are varied, but readers won’t have to search hard for a common theme. It’s gratitude. So many immigrants are filled with appreciation, a spirit nicely summed up by a Cuban American friend who said: “If I live for a hundred years, I could never repay what this country has done for me.”
The help and respect historically accorded to new arrivals is one reason so many people still aspire and wait to become Americans. So how is it that in a country more generous to new arrivals than any other, immigration policy is the source of so much rancor and ill will? The short answer is that the issue has been exploited in ways that do little credit to either party. And no proposal on immigration will have credibility without confidence that our laws are carried out consistently and in good faith.