Observations of an Expat: I am an Immigrant

It is not easy to leave the safety net of cultural familiarity, family and friends.

If you are born to a country your acceptance is automatic. As an immigrant you have to constantly prove your worth and justify your decision to uproot your entire life and start afresh.

By Tom Arms

I am an immigrant. I emigrated from the United States to the United Kingdom on the 12th of December 1971.

I had studied for a year in Britain 18 months before and fell in love with the country and one of its citizens and moved back despite the dreary weather and traffic jams.

I did not flee a Middle Eastern, African, Central Asian or East European War. I did not turf up at Heathrow claiming political persecution or risk crossing the English Channel in an inflatable raft. Neither was I escaping a life of poverty in an African mud hut. In fact, if I had stayed in America I would probably be enjoying a comfortable country club existence.

Nevertheless, I feel an affinity with Africans, Asians, Hispanics, or any person from any race or country who left their homeland to seek a new life. It is not easy to leave the safety net of cultural familiarity, family and friends.

If you are born to a country your acceptance is automatic. As an immigrant you have to constantly prove your worth and justify your decision to uproot your entire life and start afresh.

I feel I have succeeded. I started an international news agency which launched the careers of well over a hundred journalists. My children are all a credit to me as are the 200 boys and girls—many of them now young men and women– who have passed through my scout group over the past 20 years.

I am not boasting. In fact, I don’t regard myself as particularly unusual. Immigrants in every country have outstanding records of contributing to their adopted homelands.

Think about it, by their very nature immigrants have proven through their actions that they are risk takers. They are adventurers. They are focused, determined and prepared to work hard to achieve their aims. Such people are assets to any community lucky enough to have them.

Just ask the American shareholders of Ebay, Tesla, Google, Intel, Yahoo and Sun Microsystems. They are all grateful to the immigrants who started the businesses which keep them in their gated communities and on their expensive golf courses. According to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants started 25% of America’s businesses financed by venture capital.

Here is another statistic for you, according to the US Small Business Administration, immigrants are 18 percent more likely to start a business than native born Americans. On top of that, those small businesses in 2015 employed 4.7 million Americans.

Republicans in America and Boris Johnson and Pritti Patel in Britain claim that immigrants are sucking their countries dry. Their views are echoed by a rapidly growing anti-immigration lobby throughout the Western world. Well, according to a report from University College London—one of the world’s top educational establishments—between 2004 and 2014, immigrants from the European Union put $15 billion more into the British economy than they took out. In fact,  the ethnic group which took out more in benefits than it put in was the native-born Brits who—over the same period—cost their country an estimated $700 billion more in welfare, education and health benefits than they paid in taxes.

And what about the millions of aliens that Trump planned to deport and would do so if elected in 2024? Well, according to the US Immigration Policy Centre, Latinos spent $1.5 trillion in 2015 and the Asians $775 billion. Of course, most of these people are legal, but still it is clear that if he has his way Trump will send a lot of money to the other side of his wall.

Opposition to immigration is not just based on cash. There is also a strong argument that they are undermining native cultures. It is true that people bring customs across borders. My family, for instance, make a point of celebrating Thanksgiving. Every year we invite our British friends and thank them for making us welcome. Some have adopted the custom.

Successive waves of immigrants have all been vilified as cultural contaminants. In America, the Irish and Poles were attacked as heathen Catholics. Italian immigrants were accused of stealing jobs. The Chinese and Japanese were lumped together as “The Yellow Peril.” But somehow they have all been absorbed into the overarching American culture while at the same time contributing their own customs which help to keep America the vibrant and exciting country that it is.

In Britain in the 17th century, Huguenots increased the population by a staggering ten percent. Their skills are also credited with laying the foundations for the industrial revolution. Irish workers built the railways and canals, and the sons and daughters of Jewish, Afro-Caribbean, South Asian and Asian immigrants now sit in parliament, run major companies and save lives in NHS hospitals.

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  • Boris Johnson is in trouble. A large slice of his own MPs voted to remove him from office. He faces a possibly historic defeat at a by-election next week and a grilling by a parliamentary ethics committee. His response? Double down and appeal to a right-wing anti-immigrant, anti-EU base. When in doubt, find the scapegoat. In the week following his MPs confidence vote, the British Prime Minister has tried—and so far failed—to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda and introduced legislation to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol at the heart of Britain’s withdrawal agreement with the EU. The first has been condemned as immoral by the Opposition, church leaders, pressure groups and even Prince Charles. At the last minute it was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights. But opinion polls show 44 percent of the British population and 78 per cent of Conservative Party rank and file back the plan. Home Secretary Pritti Patel says she is determined to circumvent the European court’s blockage. In the meantime the Johnson government is also crossing swords with that other whipping boy of the British right—the EU. It is determined to break international law and scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol which it negotiated and signed as part of British withdrawal from the European Union. The issue is unfettered trade between Northern Ireland and the British mainland. Both sides have made concessions but the EU has refused to budge on two points: The role of the European Court of Justice as the final arbitrator and the primacy of EU regulations and safety checks over British. Brussels has threatened retaliatory measures if the Johnson government continues with its plans.
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Tom Arms Journalist Sindh CourierTom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and the author of “America Made in Britain.”




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