The United States has almost three times as many Nobel Prize laureates as the nearest competing country. Could it be that Americans are smarter than everyone else? Yes, in that America has allowed people from all over the world to come and help make us great.
Just over 25 percent of American Nobel prize winners are foreign born. Across time, America has been the land of opportunity where your ability could render null the negative cost of your race, political affiliation, gender, religion or nationality. America presented the opportunity for the greatest minds that the world has ever known to reach for their greatest potential. A meritocracy that made the United States an economic leviathan and an international icon for personal and intellectual freedom. While American attitudes toward immigrants have waxed and waned, our country would have suffered mightily without the brilliant men and women listed as Nobel Prize winners who were Americans but foreign born.
Arizona has recently passed a law that seeks to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. As I understand the ruling, police can demand to see your identification without probable cause, on the surface, a decidedly un-American idea. Now, 15 other American states are considering similar or more severe laws.
From an upstate NY perspective, it is difficult to fully appreciate either side of the argument and I have not arrived at a hardened position as a result. My concern is that laws could be created that would block the important infusion of people and ideas from outside America. If Hispanic immigrants are turned away could we be turning away a Luiz Alvarez, Hispanic Nobel Prize winner in Physics or a Severo Ochoa, Nobel Prize winner in medicine. Another Hispanic baseball legend might be among the group we turn away like Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente or Alex Rodriguez.
One of the most salient arguments regarding illegal immigrants is the multibillion dollar drug trade between Mexico and America. Is the drug trade an immigrant problem or an American problem? America has a huge appetite for illegal drugs, without which there would be no drug trade and many fewer illegal immigrants. Subduing the American illegal drug habit could provide part of the immigrant solution. Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org