This photo speaks to what should’ve been. A young family with dreams and aspirations, seeking a better life for themselves and their little girl. Instead, this week they experienced an absolute horror, seen by so many of us in a tragic and horrific photo. The 25-year-old father and his 23-month-old daughter, trying to escape the abject poverty of El Salvador, drowned side-by-side in the Rio Grande River near the border crossing between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas, seeking nothing more than a chance for asylum and a better life.
My son Jacob is 34 months old. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to help him and his two older sisters to live healthy, happy and whole. As a toddler, my own grandmother “Jenny” arrived at Ellis Island from Sicily, Italy, holding the hands of her migrant parents. They had no skills, no possessions, and spoke no English, yet were still welcomed with the wonderful words inscribed in the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . .”
When did a nation of immigrants transition from “open arms” to “clenched fists?” More than ever, we need bipartisan leadership for Immigration Reform. It must recognize that we live in a land that was built on the brains, as well as on the backs, of immigrants that were high-skilled, low-skilled and – like my ancestors – no-skilled.
At the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, I am awed that I work for 340 innovation economy employers who view Immigration Reform as vital to the vitality of our country. Yes, we need comprehensive immigration reform that allows the best and the brightest to come, create and innovate in America. With 43 out of every 100 tech companies founded or co-founded by an immigrant or the child of immigrants, immigration is essential to American job creation and innovation. Yet our interests do not end with highly skilled workers. It also extends to their spouses and immediate families, which are at increasing risk due to proposed changes in H-4 Visa policy, disallowing hard-working spouses from being able to apply their skills and professional pursuits in the United States. In addition, our interests must also include the hard-working migrants who often toil in our fields, pick our fruits and vegetables, make our hotel beds, mow our lawns and trim our trees – all while dreaming for a better life for their children. They were just like my grandmother, who picked prunes and apricots here in “The Valley of Hearts’ Delight,” so that her 9 children could live in America, earn an education, pay taxes, contribute to our economy, and then – have a grandson, who would go on to serve as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
This is our America. We can and must tackle difficult issues like Immigration Reform that engage our heads and our hearts, showing the wisdom that recognizes how blessed we are to live in the United States. We can and must recognize the humanity of families; fathers, mothers and children who also wish to live in such an amazing land of freedom and opportunity. Yes, we need secure borders. We must also never forget that standing up for secure borders must never require stooping down to injure or inflict hardship on others. “The wretched refuse of your teeming shore; Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.” For America to be “the best,” we, as Americans, must reflect what’s best about America.
-Carl Guardino, CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, June 27, 2019
Editor’s Note: Read the Associated Press news story here.