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Immigration is not for the faint of heart.

With high school diploma in hand, a young African from Ghana named Robert Kosi Tette came to the United States in 1998, leaving behind family, friends, and “a simple life of blissful innocence.”

Ten years later, he described his decade in America, in an article that appeared in the March 1, 2008 issue of Newsweek, that he entitled “An Immigrant’s Silent Struggle.”

In it, he said, “It was as though I had run ten consecutive marathons, one for each year abroad.

“I now hold a graduate degree, and have a successful professional career, but every inch of progress has been achieved through exhausting battles. My college education had been financed partly through working multiple minimum-wage jobs.

“I was fortunate to secure a job upon graduation, but I found myself putting in twice the effort just to keep up. I feigned assertiveness, after I learned I would not be taken seriously otherwise.

“I went to graduate school part time. I have spent a small fortune in legal fees and endured stressful years grappling with the complexities of securing permanent residency in America.

“My body screams for rest.”

I would expect that Robert Kosi Tette’s experiences are not unlike those of most serious immigrants to America. They arrive. They seek jobs. They struggle to speak English. They pursue the best college education. They are fueled by an ambition to own a part of the American dream, and they succeed.

A Russian immigrant, Vitaliy Katsenelson, marked his thirtieth anniversary in America, in an article that appeared in Barron’s, on December 27, 2021, entitled, “Capitalism’s Imperfect Promise.” He said,

“On December 4, 1991, my family landed at JFK, our stop on the way to Denver. I was eighteen. Denver was flat, sunny, and unusually warm. Days before we were freezing our bones in Moscow in negative 30 degree weather. It was 65 degrees in Denver.

“We were picked up at the airport by half a dozen strangers, members of my aunt’s synagogue. Six of us stood there, holding thirty duffle bags. These strangers had furnished an apartment to people they didn’t know! That was shocking to me.

“I had been brainwashed into believing that Americans—capitalist pigs—would sell their brothers to supersize their happy meals. I think it took me six months to understand spoken American English.

“Getting a job was difficult. I was rejected by fast food restaurants on multiple occasions. I found a job bussing tables at a restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights. Everything I earned, down to the last penny, including tips, I gave to my parents. This money went for food and rent.

“Once I went on a date with a girl to a Chinese restaurant. She ordered kung pao chicken. I ordered water. It was embarrassing. I had to postpone dating for a while.

“In Soviet Russia everyone was equally poor. My family lived from paycheck to paycheck. Going to a restaurant was a big event for us. Our understanding of money was very limited. We never had any.

“Those were difficult years, but I would not trade them for anything. Those years taught me to work harder than anyone else.”

Robert Kosi Tette and Vitaliy Katsenelson are just two examples of countless others, who found a way to migrate to America. Once here, they learned that to buy groceries at a local store, and avoid the shame of homelessness, they had to find a job, and then they had to work harder than others.

Each can now look back at their no small successes. All young and ambitious people dare to climb a difficult and dangerous mountain, and now and then they stop and stare back with pride at the vast distance that they have climbed. For immigrants without English skills, it is doubly difficult, or more.

There are those who call for “securing our borders,” a phrase that often means “shut the door and not allow in any other young, driven, intelligent, law-abiding person,” a sure prescription to starve the American economy of the men and women who will start and build the nation’s newest businesses.

Of those immigrant entrepreneurs, Vitaliy Katsenselson says, “At first these competitors are content with breadcrumbs, but eventually they eat your lunch and dinner.”

Capitalism is imperfect. It makes promises that sometimes remain unfulfilled, due to bad luck, or injury, or poor choices, or lack of sufficient work. But for the lucky few who strike out on their own in America and succeed, it offers immense rewards, for both owner and customer.

For Americans, immigration is always a work in progress. Not quite correct, imperfect, flawed, and yet, for some, necessary.