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Why America Needs Immigrants and Why Iranians Should Care

By Jamshid S. Irani, Attorney at Law, New York

On Thursday, June 7, 2007 in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) temporarily set aside the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, after the bill’s supporters failed to garner enough votes to end debate and proceed toward a vote on final passage. I dare state that no Iranian-American cared. Despite this setback, the bill’s “grand bargainers” continue to work behind the scenes to craft a procedural agreement that could pave the way for a final round of debate and votes on CIR. If the bargainers succeed in striking a bipartisan deal, Senator Reid could bring the bill back to the floor after the Senate dispenses with energy legislation, sometime before the July 4 recess. President Bush has made a commitment to work harder toward the passage of the bill which would conclude his 8-year legacy at the White House. Whether his move is too late in the process remains to be seen.

Immigration reform has been a primary domestic policy issue and source of debate over the past 18 months. Like no other subject, our treatment of and need for foreigners is an emotionally charged topic for most Americans. It is no longer divided along party lines, religious beliefs or social status: how many aliens can enter, work and reside in the United States matters to everyone.

In all of the business assessments, social services impacts, statistical projections, and enforcement measures, many see immigrants as one uniform group. As an Iranian-American who immigrated to the United States 30 years ago, I am surprised at the one-sided view. While it is true that 100 years ago, during the industrial revolution, immigrants were coming to the U.S. to fill general labor jobs to improve economic position for themselves and their families, a lot has changed since then.

Over the past 100 years, political, economic, social and cultural circumstances have changed dramatically in the U.S. and in other countries. Americans engaged in the immigration debate, however, seem blind to the qualities of arriving immigrants. It appears that, when debating the rules of the admission, residence, and citizenship for new immigrants, everyone focuses on landscapers, farm workers, factory workers and similar low-skill jobs that natives typically turn down. It seems that the voices of most immigrants in the last two decades are silent and indifferent. Certainly, the voices of Iranian-Americans have been silent.

As an immigration attorney handling cases nationwide and an immigrant myself, I strongly disagree with this picture of new immigrants. The vast majority of my clients, and foreign nationals who I meet around the country, are not economic immigrants. We came here for upward social mobility, something our native countries failed to offer. We have gained the basic educational background in Iran and completed it here.

We are highly educated, hard-working contributors to American society, the quintessential super-achievers. Doctors and engineers in Iran or the Philippines, scientists in Canada, Germany or France are highly-respected and well-paid professionals. It is because we achieved our goals in our ancestral home and could go no further that we came to the United States. Unlike the immigrants who came here 100 years ago for the opportunity to eat, stay warm or simple survival, we came for success. I should add that many have sought sanctuary here for persecutions at home.

By recognizing our strength and providing us with opportunities, the United States proves again that it is the world's strongest democracy. In any other non-native country, our accent, race, culture, or background would delegate us to the bottom of the career ladder. Not in America. Here, people are recognized for his or her achievements and potential. There are many successful Iranian-Americans holding some of the highest positions in various fields.

The mutual embrace between immigrants and our new-found motherland is stronger and more lasting. We do not question rules because we grew up with rigid authority. We do not dwell on set-backs because we know we have a long journey ahead. We grab opportunities because we waited for them so long. Are we not the citizens that America should cherish? It is our contributions that add competitive advantages, economic prosperity and cultural diversity, the cornerstones of a successful society.

Unless U.S. laws continue to encourage the best and the brightest not only to study here, but to stay and contribute, the best and most driven people will go elsewhere. We are keenly aware of thousands of American jobs moving overseas. To stop the outflow, America needs to attract and retain the successful immigrants who create jobs through the money they spend on child care, investments, homes, cars, services and other economic drivers. These are the immigrants who should be considered when Americans debate the final form of our immigration laws.

We, as Iranian-Americans, have our work cut for us. We must do our share too. We must get involved and encourage our representative to vote for the legislation and give it another chance. As President Bush does his share, we, too, should contact and persuade our representatives to work harder to pass a law which would include smart border and worksite enforcement; path to earned permanent residence for the undocumented; a new worker program and finally reunification of families separated for years and decades. We, Iranian-Americans, are and should be part of this melting pot and this evolving process. We are and could more be leaders in communities where we live. But the key to advance remains in how dedicated we are and how committed we feel toward our obligations to our society, that is the city, state and country where we live. We, Iranian-Americans, should treasure our past and look forward in our adopted land. With 27% for, 33% against and 40% undecided, we could make a big difference. Let us show it!

Jamshid S. Irani, Attorney at Law
1170 Broadway,
Suite 510
New York, NY 10001

... Payvand News - 6/14/07 ... --

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