Values on the 4th of July

The United States is a nation of immigrants, built on the idea that it is the land of opportunity, where people can get ahead and live in freedom. For centuries, millions of people arrived on these shores with the desire to work hard for a better future, one that they could not achieve in their homeland.

“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” reads the inscription on the Statue of Liberty in New York. These words are a ray of hope for immigrants and an opportunity for our society to welcome those who will enrich our country with their contributions. The story of immigrants, of their children and grandchildren, is the story of the human successes and failures that turned the U.S. into the economic and technological power it is today.

There have always been those who, whether because of fear or ignorance, have refused to welcome immigrants, especially when they had a different language, religion or ethnicity.

They are the predecessors of the demonstrators in the city of Murrieta, California who prevented buses carrying undocumented women and minors from reaching a local immigration processing center. They said they were concerned that the arrival of these children would strain local resources and increase crime. In that case, there is no reason for that fear, other than the fear that sees these youths as dangerous invaders.

In reality, these youths represent an opportunity that should be seized. Yes, it is true that giving them a formal education will cost money. However, it will be an investment in the workforce of the future for a society that—like some European societies—is aging and needs new blood to fill the vacuum left by decreasing local birth rates.

These youths will be the doctors, scientists, professionals, parents, voters and taxpayers of tomorrow. They will repeat the story that began with the arrival of a ship filled with immigrants, whose descendants, on July 4th, 1776, established the right “to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Today, we remember that spirit generous in opportunities, the one that recognizes individual efforts, takes risks, values competition and rewards hard work. Those are the American values that must prevail in this humanitarian crisis, over fear and ignorance.