Immigrants Are The Future
*This is a story first published on Wordpress in 2015
Iowa City, Iowa – When I first met Vernon Fitzpatrick, I was asking him what he wanted for breakfast. He had just come inside, escaping the frigid air, dressed in a big coat to fit his 6-foot-6 Michael Jordan exterior. It was 7 a.m. in the Agape Café and the homeless in Iowa City gathered at Old Brick for a sit-down breakfast. The smell of fresh black coffee and pastries filled the air. Tired faces warmed up and lips curled as friendly volunteer waitresses and waiters went around getting orders and serving hot-to-order meals. I took Vernon’s order and I asked him where he was from. Vernon chuckled and proudly explained that he was from Guyana, South America. As I began to talk to him, he spoke of wanting to get on the Johnson County board to make some changes in the community and how excited he was to go back to school for a second degree in Political Science.
During my first interview with Vernon, I found out that he in fact wasn’t homeless; he came to the café regularly to reach out to those who needed someone to talk. Vernon is in the beginning stages on the road to success. Success for Vernon is lending an ear to those that need it most and acting instead of reacting to the problems he sees before him.
A Look at the Facts
In 2013 the Pew Research Center found that 93 percent of the growth of the nation’s working-age population between now and 2050 will be accounted for by immigrants and their U.S.-born children.
Some people are cynical about the future of our country because of the huge effects immigrants are projected to cause. In fact, according to a 2015 study by the same publication, 37 percent of Americans in the United States believe immigration is only making American Society worse. Actor Dan Hampel stands with that belief stating that he is “strictly for enforcing the immigration laws that are already on the books.”
However, decades of research have been unveiling the success of immigrants which should brighten the prospects for the future of United States industries and businesses. The road to success takes on many forms, and studies show that immigrants and their children seem to have a few good maps.
A study led by Dr. Lingxin Hao found that 1.5 generation children, those born outside the U.S. and then brought here before their teens, did better than second generation children, who are born in the U.S. to one or more foreign-born parents, and third generation children, who are native born children to native born parents.
Hannah Pinho was born in Brazil and moved to the United States in 2012. As a pre-med student at the University of Iowa, Hannah studies long hours and wants to succeed to help those around her, but also to show her parents that their hard work and sacrifices paid off.
What Feeds Success
What feeds this deep rooted need to succeed and its likely fruition? A study by Hao mentions that the selectivity of immigrants themselves creates a channel letting in those that are more likely to succeed.
Many local immigrants came to the states through academic means to succeed in what they love to do. The University of Iowa was/ is their ticket to a better education and a successful future.
Alongside this selection process, Hao found that high levels of parent-child interactions increases parents’ and children’s expectations and that higher shared family expectations enhances achievement.
When Vernon talked about his parents, his smile didn’t leave his lips. He explained that he comes into the cafe because as a child his mother told him to always use his voice, and so he is.
“My parents taught us a lot about giving back. Never judge anyone by the color of their skin, money is the root of all evil, and give back. They would say it over and over,” said Vernon.
This repetition of values helped solidify the familial expectations that were put on Vernon. Coupled with this was the reality of the sacrifices made by his parents. A sacrifice so great that Vernons’ parents gave up high level governmental positions in order to give their children a better life and education. Today, their daughter is an investment banker on Wall Street, one son is a lecturer at a New Jersey University, and Vernon is on the road to his second degree with high hopes to make some positive changes in local policy and help those that need it most.
This mentality was similar in young Adam Hashim as well. Adam is a UI Sophomore from Malaysia and an avid community service volunteer as well as a top student. To get a full scholarship here, he had to pass three difficult tests with high scores of eights or nines (eights being equivalent to B’s and nines to A’s). Following that, he had to pass a lengthy interview process. As he explained the difficulty of the tests, he sat up and leaned his body forward. His dark eyebrows knitted together and worry lined his forehead. He whispered,
“When I got my test results back… and got all eights … I was so disappointed- I cried.”
His dedication to his school work and future success was so powerful that he emotionally couldn’t handle the idea of not getting the perfect score he worked for.
Aside from the devastation of a less than perfect score, Adam got the scholarship and is now thriving and on the track to becoming an expert in economics. His face twisted into a state of mild discontent when I asked him if he had always been this way. He admitted solemnly that it’s been a hard adjustment to the United States education system because of student’s tendency to study independently, the absence of his parents’ oversight and lack of tutors. However, he continues to utilize whatever he can in order to succeed and tries to give back through Alpha Phi Omega, a philanthropy group on campus.
Mixing Two Cultures is Key
In a 2008 study, published by John Hopkins University, it was reported that an immigrant’s ability to draw from two cultures and social systems allows them to creatively and selectively combine aspects that can help them become highly successful. Adam draws his self-discipline and drive from his Malaysian culture and his assimilating abilities from interacting with Americans. By combining these skills he will be able to succeed in many work force environments.
Mak Suceska from the Des Moines refugee office said that, “All refugees come with skills. All refugees understand the value of a dollar. And all refugees want to give back to the country/ community that helped them so much.” Other immigrants share similar traits to many refugee immigrants. Throughout the years, studies have attributed the drive behind immigration to things like an increase in job opportunities, more financial stability, and a safer environment, among other things.
Suceska says that what feeds this ambition of theirs is a desire to make a new life; to survive.
Faris Mohammed knows about this desire. The 49-year-old Sudanese International Studies student at the University of Iowa came to the US with a visa in 2000 and applied for asylum. The first few years he was here, he worked as a pizza delivery man, a taxi driver and an auto parts delivery man. All of the minimum wage jobs he worked at helped Faris support four of his brothers through college, his four sisters back in Sudan and even his parents. For Faris, it wasn’t a question of if he was going to help his family. Undoubtedly, he made this move to the United States as a sacrifice for those he cared about. The end goal is to extend his helping hand to others as well.
“ When I was ten, I wanted to be a judge because I saw a lot of inequality and injustice. People suffer a lot, and emotionally I wanted to give them justice,” Faris exclaims.
As Faris pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. He spoke about the suffering he had seen growing up. Sudan has had the longest civil war in Africa running from 1953-2011 displacing four million people. Now, Faris is back in school to upgrade his skills and go back to help the people in his country. He plans to build a school or local nonprofit to help with Human Rights issues in Sudan. Faris had never had a bad experience being an immigrant in the United States despite the statistics and negative opinions we see in the media.He said,
“Ey! We’re all immigrants; most people think that.”