For the past 13 years, I’ve participated in Strategic Coach, an international entrepreneurial coaching program. I fly to Chicago or Toronto quarterly to meet with my coach, Dan Sullivan, in a class consisting of about 50 other business leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs, mostly from the United States, but also from around the world. Most of the participants in my group established and built multi-million dollar businesses employing anywhere from a few dozen to several thousand employees.

My estate planning legal practice is a spit in the ocean compared to what many of my classmates run. I find it invaluable to be in a room of wise, sound businessmen and women, most of whom
also support a variety of philanthropic causes. They give me fantastic ideas on how to streamline work, upgrade client service and market my law practice through valuable client education using today’s technology.

But here’s my anecdotal observation: roughly one-third of the participants are
either immigrants themselves or first generation children of immigrants to the
United States.

One out of every three!

These are individuals who left their homeland, some not knowing how to speak English, having little or no financial resources to make a go of it in our country. Many attained degrees at our fine colleges and universities while some did not, but all of them built something quite substantial. The program’s annual tuition is $25,000, so we don’t have charlatans among us. These people are the real deal.

Before joining Strategic Coach, I would never have guessed that so many created so much in such a short period of time. They are men and women, white, black, brown and every shade in between. I’ve met a Muslim from Asia looking for a bigger future in America, despite knowing he would likely face discrimination here. Another in my class fled Macedonia with his family when war broke out in the 1990s. A Christian Iranian fled as a child with his family when the Ayatollah came into power in 1979. Several Indian nationals have established technology centers here and in their homeland.

They are all multi-millionaires who run successful organizations.

It’s truly amazing what these individuals have accomplished in such a short period of time. And besides, they are nice, quality people that are interesting to talk to. They love our country and the opportunity it provides.

And they give back.

They’ve established centers to help refugees stricken by war around the world. They’ve created foundations to fight dreaded diseases and to feed the homeless. One I know has a program to hire wounded American veterans suffering from PTSD.

I therefore don’t understand the news reports that would have one believe our country has become a conglomeration of xenophobes. Certainly not every immigrant constructs million dollar enterprises, but you also notice hard-working immigrants in restaurant kitchens, hotels, landscaping companies, manufacturing firms and a host of other jobs that require back-breaking hours.

Just about every one of us traces our ancestry back to an immigrant. My great-grandparents landed on Ellis Island in the early 1900s to escape European pogroms. They worked in sweat shops in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which at the time was the most densely populated place on earth. Later, they built clothing manufacturing firms and general retail stores.

My ancestors would beam with pride if they could witness what their progeny have achieved these many years later.

I don’t know why our country can’t readily admit, as a full-fledged citizen, anyone who earns a college level diploma here. Instead, these individuals must endure a grueling application process. Do we really want the brainpower that our colleges and universities train creating businesses, hiring workers and paying taxes somewhere else – especially when they would prefer to reside here?

Yes, we certainly have to be concerned about and screen for those who have destructive intent. Many of our nation’s recent terrorist incidents were homegrown, however. Almost all of those entering our country work an honest job to make it here like the rest of us.

The “brand” of our country, if you will, is built on immigration. I’ve been fortunate to witness firsthand the significant contributions recent immigrants have made. I hope, as a country, we promote a liberal immigration policy to attract the best, brightest and most ambitious.

Our future depends on it.

© 2018 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.