Setting aside the moral value of taking in refugees (…your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…); setting aside the immediate economic value of elastic supply of skilled labor trained by other people’s taxes; there is another, often overlooked, societal benefit of immigration.
Immigration brings in people pre-screened for the traits that are at the core of the American entrepreneurial spirit — pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps and take-your-fate-into-your-own-hands; the willingness to risk it all; the blind faith in a better future and the perseverance to make it happen.
Self-determination is what brought them here and what they brought with them.
The decision to abandon the world you know and to take a blind leap towards the unknown is not an easy one. For those who have not lived through the experience, it may be difficult to comprehend the culture shock, the fear of giving up all social safety nets, all lifelines, and moving to a new country¹. Leaving the life you know behind, however imperfect it may be, can be terrifying. Not everyone is willing to risk it.
Immigration brings in people — whether self-selected or pushed into it by poverty, persecution, or war — who have demonstrated their capacity to make such decisions, to take such risks, to make such sacrifices. All for chance, just a chance, to try for something better.
Immigration is the marrow of the American hustle (not the con, but the perpetual drive to survive and to thrive). Society needs fresh blood. It dilutes stagnation and entitlement born of contentment.
¹ There is a saying (a punchline to a joke, actually): Don’t mistake tourism for immigration. Similarly, don’t mistake expats for immigrants.