12 "All American" Things That Exist Because Of Immigrants
On Thursday, immigrant communities across the country took part in the Day Without Immigrants, a protest and boycott intended to raise awareness of the effects of Donald Trump's immigration policies. The policies being protested include the travel ban that covers seven Muslim-majority countries, which has been criticized as Islamophobic, and his promises to deport millions. According to the New York Times, dozens of restaurants in Washington, D.C. will be closed Thursday, including three owned by famous chef José Andrés.
"There are pivotal moments when standing by the sidelines is not an option. This is one of those moments," business owner Andy Shallal, who is himself an immigrant, told CNBC. Shallal is the owner of Busboys and Poets, a bookstore and restaurant chain whose locations will be closed Thursday.
Thursday's efforts are just the most recent major protest against Trump's immigration policies. When the travel ban was announced in January, protests exploded in major cities and at airports across the country, often accompanied by chants like, "No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!" and the like.
Anti-immigrant rhetoric is troubling for many reasons, including the but it also attacks the defining qualities of America. Since its founding, the United States has been a nation of immigrants, and no picture of this country is complete without an understanding of the many significant contributions of immigrants. In fact, many major aspects of American culture wouldn't exist without immigrants.
Take a look and consider these examples. They are just a small handful of all that America owes to immigrants.
1. National Parks
The National Parks System was founded in large part because of the environmentalist writings of John Muir, who came to the United States from Scotland in 1849. Because of Muir, some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country have been well-preserved for public access.
2. "God Bless America"
It's not quite the national anthem, but it's definitely evocative of football games, honoring the troops, and national pride. Yes, the song that Slate calls "a conservative anthem" was written by an immigrant. Irving Berlin, who also wrote "White Christmas" and a slew of other hits, was a Russian immigrant.
3. The United States Treasury
Even if, like me, you cannot afford tickets to Hamilton, you probably still know that Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury. As Secretary, he shaped the U.S. Treasury into what it is today by implementing revolutionary (and at the time, controversial) policies like war bonds and the assumption of state debt. Despite his Founding Father pedigree, though, Hamilton was an immigrant, born on the island of Nevis and raised in St. Croix.
4. Coal Miners' and Steelworkers' Rights
Much of the unfortunate "immigrants are taking our jobs" rhetoric is aimed at blue collar workers in industries like coal mining and steelworking. Yet the history of the labor movement in both of those industries would be incomplete without the contributions of Mother Jones. Jones, who was barely five feet tall, was a fiery force for workers' rights after she came to the United States from Ireland.
5. The Terminator Movies
One of those movies that encapsulates the trope of American masculinity, the Terminator franchise would be nothing without its star, Austrian immigrant (and Republican) Arnold Schwarzenegger. Citing his own experiences, Schwarzenegger recently made headlines for saying that Trump's travel ban made the United States "look stupid."
6. "I Love Lucy"
Like it or not, television is a huge part of modern American culture. "I Love Lucy," starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, is one of the classics that paved the way for subsequently popular sitcoms like The Simpsons and Friends. It's frequently rated among the best television shows of all time. Since the show revolved around the chemistry between its main characters, "Lucy" would have been nothing without Desi, who immigrated to the United States from Cuba.
7. Ayn Rand
Republicans love Ayn Rand! Rand's espousal of capitalist objectivism has earned her praise from people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Ron Johnson. Ivanka Trump quoted her on Twitter; Paul Ryan even makes his interns read Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. However, Rand was also an immigrant — she grew up in Russia before moving to America as an adult in the 1920s.
Google is one of the crown jewels of Silicon Valley, perhaps the region with the largest influence on modern American culture, considering the ubiquity of tech. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who came to the United States as a refugee from the Soviet Union, attended protests at San Francisco International Airport and recently spoke at an anti-Trump immigration rally, reportedly calling the ban "a debate about fundamental values." Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who also spoke at the rally is also an immigrant, from India.
9. Carlos Santana Guitar Solos
Rock 'n roll is a defining aspect of Americanism, but nobody pulls off a face-melting guitar solo better (or more consistently) than Carlos Santana, American music icon and Mexican immigrant. In 2011, Santana spoke out against immigration legislation in Arizona and Georgia, telling voters in those states "you should be ashamed of yourselves" for supporting anti-immigrant policies.
10. Breakfast at Tiffany's
I'd guess there's a Breakfast at Tiffany's poster in about one in four college dorm rooms, which is understandable, considering that Holly Golightly is one of the most iconic characters of all time. But we wouldn't have this iconic American film without Audrey Hepburn, who came to the United States from her native Belgium.
Jeopardy! is not only among the most iconic American television franchises, it is also the vehicle that thousands of teachers across the country use to help students review material before big exams. Win streaks like Ken Jennings' became national news, and being named in a question is something of a celebrity rite of passage. Best of all, perhaps, are the many SNL parodies of Jeopardy!, which have showcased everything from Sean Connery's dirty mind to an alternate view of Trump supporters. None of this would have been possible, though, without host Alex Trebek, who is a Canadian immigrant and the son of an immigrant from Ukraine.
12. Major League Baseball
Lastly, baseball: the beloved sport may be the single most American thing on this list (go Cardinals!), but the MLB would be nothing without the many immigrants who serve as an integral part of nearly every franchise. Nearly one-third of professional baseball players are foreign-born, including Robinson Cano, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, and Sammy Sosa.