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Immigrants: Leaders Among Communities

By Rachel Sousa

As immigration laws begin to tighten and evolve in the United States, many Americans fail to see the positive side in welcoming legal immigrants and instead focus on the negatives emphasis on illegal immigrants in the media. This topic strikes a chord with me personally, given that my own father and his siblings immigrated from the Azores when they were children. I feel the deepest appreciation for him and the rest of his brothers and sisters–my family–for what they have accomplished in the last 40 years after being handed nothing but an American citizenship. This, in itself, is the foundation for success–but success does not come without phenomenal work ethic and the desire for self betterment. Written by Anand Giridharadas, the New York Times article “The Immigrant Advantage” sounds like an oxymoron, but I’ve seen this idea manifested in my closest family members. There is something radically empowering about a self-made person, and immigrants are awarded this opportunity. “The American Dream,” though often a forgotten term, is what makes this country a place people aspire to be, and a term that makes me proud to call myself a second-generation American citizen.

More importantly, the article takes a step back to look more closely at the anger and suspicion felt towards immigrants, and Giridharadas pins this on resentment felt by struggling middle-class citizens who feel trapped–a stark contrast with the expectations for success which immigrants arrive in the United States ready to seize. For immigrants, their heritage is something to motivate them forward, for middle-class Americans it becomes something which holds them back. Ultimately, as Giridharadas recognizes, it is the community which surrounds immigrants which allows for success. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps only takes you so far–you’ll always need people pushing you from underneath. Without family, without community, struggling middle-class Americans have nothing to hold them up, and without it they fall further into their perceived “lot in life.”

In light of this article, the news of Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi becomes that much more important. Khosrowshahi embodies the vision of successful immigrants which Giridharadas paints for his readers as he not only has become successful himself, but alongside his family members–also immigrants–making them “one of the most extensive family networks of anyone working in the technology industry” given that not one, not two, but six of his relatives are highly successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs or executives. Given this, it’s no wonder Uber turned to Khosrowshahi during such a tumultuous time in their company’s history. Not only does Khosrowshahi seem up for the challenge, but he also has his community of peers and family to back him up. In other words: lean on family, reach out to your community. Without it, there is no hope of ever achieving the dogged mentality of immigrants, and our communities will continue to crumble beneath us.