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An Immigrant's Story

An Immigrant's Story

Hello and good day!

We were sitting in a stock room lit by a light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

The room mostly housed cleaning supplies.

The hiring manager had a clipboard in front of her and a pen in her hand.

"So, why do you want this job?" she asked.

I looked at my wife to see if she even remotely understood the question.

She didn't.

That's why I was there.

My wife, Nery, had come to the United States from Peru about a month earlier.

She was 23 at the time and I was 22.

We'd heard that a lot of recent immigrants to the United States stayed locked up in their houses, cruising the internet, following news from their home country.

And we'd seen this happen in Peru as well.

My brother had moved to Peru with his girlfriend a couple of years earlier, and she almost never left the house. She never learned to appreciate the local culture. She never learned the language. She isolated herself.

And she was miserable.

She and my brother broke up and she moved back to the United States while my brother soldiered on alone in the city of Cajamarca, Peru.

We felt that the best solution was for Nery to get a job.

This way she'd be out in the world, she'd learn the language, she'd have her own money to spend, and she could acclimate herself to her new country.

The only problem was that she hardly spoke any English.

We thought about the jobs that a non-English speaking woman from Peru could get, and we thought that bagging groceries could be a good way to go.

We filled out an application at a local grocery store.

They called her in for an interview. I came along to translate.

"Dice que quire saber porque quieres este trabajo," I translated.

Nery answered.

I transmitted the answer.

"She says that she doesn't want to be in the house all day. She wants to learn about the United States. Listen, this is me talking now. My wife is the hardest working person I've ever seen, and she is smart. You won't regret hiring her," I said.

The hiring manager was thin and had long grey hair. She sighed and looked at us.

"Does she speak any English at all?" asked the manager.

Nery picked that up. "I speak little. I learn fast," said Nery.

The woman smiled.

Nery got the job.

After a week on the job, Nery came home distraught one evening.

I sat her down on our living room couch so that she could tell me the problem.

"They're going to fire me, Adam. I know they are going to fire me," she said.

Her eyes were watery and red. She'd had a bad day.

"Why do you think that?" I asked.

"I don't understand anything. They ask me where the products are and I have no idea what anything means. Cheerios? What are Cheerios? Carrots? What are they!"

She looked down and shook her head.

"Do you like the job?" I asked.

She looked back up.

"Yes, I like it. I like looking at the products. I like to see what people buy. I like helping people. I know I can do a good job. But I don't understand anything."

"Come on," I said.

We walked out to my car and drove back to the grocery store.

We spent the next couple of hours going aisle by aisle making a list of what we thought were the most popular items and what aisle they were on.

The list was in English.

We made several trips and Nery consolidated it all into a neat list that she carried in her front pocket when she was at work.

"Excuse me, where can I find the Tide?" somebody would ask.

You don't learn about Tide in any language schools.

Nery would take out her list and unfold it.

"Tide. Aisle 17. I take you?"

Then she'd flash that big, beautiful, toothy smile that made me fall in love with her, and they'd be putty in her hands, just like I was.

Several months later, the grocery store offered Nery a promotion, but she didn't take it.

Instead, she parlayed her improved English into a higher paying job.

She signed on to be a cashier at Target.

Then she took a job as a bra saleswoman at Macy's and became the top bra saleswoman in the state of California.

The prize for that prestigious accomplishment?

A ton of free bras.

Finally, she took a job as a banker and did that for several years, before deciding to become a stay-at-home mother when we had our first child.

Since 2020, when we began to sell our chocolate directly to the public, after 10 years of operating strictly as wholesalers, Nery has been integral to our business.

She does all of our HR. Now she is the one doing the interviewing.

She designs all of our packaging.

She has created systems for inventory management and purchasing.

Her title is Vice President of Retail Management.

She still loves looking at products, just like she did back in her grocery store days.

Every time we travel to Peru, she buys artisanal items for us to bring back and make available to our customers.

As a person born and raised in the United States, I believe strongly that this country is lucky to have my wonderful wife.

She produces much more than she consumes.

She makes our economy stronger.

She is an American success story.

In the opposite direction, my brother Brian was an immigrant to Peru.

He lived there for fifteen years straight.

He built an innovative and successful cacao buying operation that created dozens of high paying jobs and improved the lives of hundreds of cacao farm families.

Peru was lucky to have him.

He was a Peruvian success story.

Nobody will ever stop human beings from striving to improve their lives.

Migration is a long-term fact of humanity.

Look back as far as you want in history, and you will see people traveling from one place to another in search of opportunity.

It isn't going to stop.

We have a lot of immigrants working for our company and we have a ton of customers who are immigrants.

The area where we live is very international and that is one of the things I like best about it.

I love to meet people from all over the world, and hear their accents, and learn about far off lands.

There is a very simple formula for determining if an immigrant is a net benefit to an economy.

Do they produce more than they consume?

If the answer is yes, a country should want them.

They add value and contribute to the country's wellbeing.

From my experience this describes just about every immigrant I've ever met.

It also covers my great grandparents, who immigrated from Germany and Poland just three generations ago.

The institutional problem that must be solved regarding immigration is how to set up a framework such that the vast majority of immigrants produce more than they consume.

If you can set that up, immigration is inherently beneficial.

That is my point of view anyhow.

How to set that up is a job for policy makers.

While they are at it, they might as well work out a system for the vast majority of natural born citizens to produce more than they consume as well.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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