01 May Technology and the "American" dream
I hope you’re not reading this column, at least not today. May 1 is International Workers’ Day, a celebration elsewhere on the planet of the contributions to society and economy of the working class. Throughout the U.S. today, hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets in support of a more practical and fair immigration policy. Many immigrants will stay home from work. Some plan to keep their wallets in their pockets to demonstrate the buying power of immigrants to the U.S.
I thought about boycotting work today by not writing this column. After all, I’m only a few generations removed from my immigrant great-grandfather, who was an indentured coal miner. I suspect he didn’t have a proper visa when he traded years of hard labor for a passage to the United States. Easily 50% of my neighbors are first-generation immigrants. They are Latino, Japanese, Tongan or Filipino. They are great neighbors, too.
But then I thought, no, I should write today, even if I write about not writing. Even if readers wonder why I’m “suddenly” getting political. Indeed, in 10 years, I’ve only twice before published anything that touched on political issues. Both times, and like now, the issues affected the technology industry.
Among the most successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are first- or second-generation immigrants. The technology industry depends on global resources and global markets. The industry “outsources” customer support, engineering, R&D, manufacturing and dozens of other critical functions to workers around the world. The industry depends on an educated workforce in the U.S. and abroad to build, support and buy its products.
It would be too easy to dismiss today’s demonstrations as a mouthpiece for illegal immigrants who sneaked through the porous US-Mexico border. We would be missing the point.
The technology industry is fueled by entrepreneurship. In this country and elsewhere, entrepreneurship is fueled by the much-vaunted American Dream. A fair and accessible immigration policy provides not just affordable labor, but also dreamers – dreamers often steeped in stark reality. That’s the stuff that spurs the American economy and the global technology marketplace.
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