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Immigrants continue to make America great


Immigration has become an extremely polarized issue, especially during this election season. One candidate has gone as far as to say that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” I take the opposite view, and value what immigrants have done to make our country great. Since childhood, I have seen how much immigrants have contributed to the economic might of our country, many who arrive in the U.S. with just the shirts on their backs.

When I was in college, I went to Tierra Amarilla in northern New Mexico to buck hay at one of my friend’s ranches. Bucking hay entails following a truck with a flatbed trailer and hoisting hay bales with your hands and knees to a ranch hand stacking the bales on the trailer. This is extremely hard work and after a while, your muscles ache and your mouth and nose are full of hay. While doing this work, I met a couple of ranch hands from Mexico, one was a trained engineer and the other a teacher in their home country. They had come to the U.S. to better their families’ lives and did not mind doing back-breaking work. Such was the case with a college-educated laborer from Mexico who assisted my father and me logging up in the forests of northern New Mexico.

I have worked with a company founded by two brothers from Juarez who migrated to the Los Angeles area and started a printing company in their garage. They worked day and night to open their own production plant in California, which they then followed with plants in Juarez, Mexico, and Santa Teresa, New Mexico. They are now the nation’s largest minority-owned lithography company, which counts powerhouses such as Hallmark and the National Guard as clients.

A dear friend of mine was a small boy who was evacuated to the countryside from his hometown of Hiroshima, Japan, just days before the first combat atomic bomb leveled his city. He eventually migrated to the U.S., where he become a respected engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, working for the national security interests of his adopted country.

Another friend of mine came to the U.S. from Belize with his wife and small children. Working with no safety net, he established a paper company with his family. Taking full advantage of the American dream, he now supplies paper products and paper dispensers for companies such as McDonald’s. This company now employees hundreds of American workers.

My favorite burrito shack is owned and operated by a man who was a veterinarian in Mexico and came to the U.S. in search of a better life. He told me that he misses working with animals, but his burrito business is thriving, and he is happy to be an American entrepreneur, and to be contributing to the U.S. economy.

Another friend of mine came to the U.S. decades ago. He found employment in the news industry as a reporter and a radio host. He decided that he wanted to own his own company and established a Spanish-language newspaper. Today, he and his wife edit the newspaper’s content, supervise columnists, write editorials, sell ads to customers, and physically deliver the bi-monthly paper to a wide geographic audience of Spanish-speakers.

I have two employees in my office who are from Mexico and were naturalized as U.S. citizens when they were children. One lives in Juarez and shoulders the burden of having to cross the border to come to work every day in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. For those not from the border region, it is a royal pain to wait in line at the ports of entry, not knowing if there are delays or excess traffic. Crossing times can range from minutes to hours. To mitigate these unknown factors, my employee has to get up extra early and head northbound in order to make sure that she is at work on time. I live literally two minutes from our office, and she is consistently at the office before me.

This employee’s parents came to the U.S. as young adults. They have toiled in laborious jobs such as housecleaning and washing cars at automobile dealerships. To this day, they still get up early in the morning and work until the sun goes down to earn their living. They have raised four kids, one of whom has her own food-service business, two of whom are college graduates and hold positions in the business world, and the youngest of whom started college with the dream of pursuing an animal science degree.

During my career, I have employed people from Mexico, Brazil, and Poland. Every single one of the immigrants, all of whom eventually attained U.S. citizenship or residency, was a hard worker, honest, and a valuable member of my team. They all seemed to have a chip on their shoulder to prove that they could work as hard as any American and earn their keep.

These are all my personal experiences with migrants. Studies have shown that migrants, upon arriving in the U.S., quickly find employment and become contributors to the U.S. economy. Unless you are a Native American, we are all migrants historically. It is time we stop vilifying these people and celebrate the value that they bring to our country.

Jerry Pacheco is the President of the Border Industrial Association. Jerry Pacheco's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.



Jerry Pacheco is President of the Border Industrial Association and Executive Director of the International Business Accelerator.