Immigration is our most polarizing political topic. Many Americans think of “illegal immigrants” only in terms of people of Hispanic descent. Our current president fans the flames of bigotry with his hateful rhetoric that exposes his ignorance of the fact that America is, and always will be, a nation of immigrants.
The only Native Americans are those who colonized the continent in three waves ending about 15,000 years ago. Everyone else who lives here is either an immigrant or a descendant of people who settled here after Columbus’ first voyage. These settlers of every ethnic background have made ours the most powerful and diverse country in the world.
So who are or were these immigrants?
Albert Einstein, the most famous scientist of all time, immigrated here in 1933 to escape the growing power of the Nazis.
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Nicolai Tesla, the genius who developed the alternating electrical current that powers the modern world, emigrated from Serbia in 1884.
I.M. Pei, the renowned architect, migrated here in 1935 from China to attend the University of Pennsylvania and MIT.
Enrico Fermi, the architect of the nuclear age, moved here from Italy in 1939 to spearhead the Manhattan Project.
Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, migrated here from Hungary in 1935.
Itzhak Perlman, the violin virtuoso, came to the United States from Israel in 1958.
Fazlur Rahman Khan, a Muslim immigrant from what is now Bangladesh, migrated here in 1952 and designed the Sears Tower in Chicago.
Carlos Santana moved to the United States form Mexico in 1961 where he pursued his music career to become one of the premier rock bands today.
Richard Phillips Feynman, a theoretical physicist known for his work in quantum mechanics was born in New York City in 1918, after his parents emigrated from Belarus in the Russian Empire.
Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine, was the son of Jewish parents who immigrated to New York from Poland.
Andrew Carnegie, the founder of the Carnegie Steel Company migrated here in 1848 from Scotland.
Madeline Albright, the Secretary of State for President Clinton, was born in Czechoslovakia but came here in 1948.
Joseph Pulitzer, one of the founders of American journalism, was born in Hungary in 1847, but moved here to serve in the Civil War.
Irving Berlin, a giant of American music, was born in Russia in 1888 before his parents moved here in 1892.
Henry Kissinger, a pillar of modern American politics, was born in Germany in 1923 but came here in 1938 to escape the Nazis.
Hakeem Olajuwon, renowned basketball player, was born in Nigeria but migrated here in 1981.
Arturo Sandoval, the famous jazz musician, was born in Cuba, but became a naturalized citizen in 1998.
Telly Savalas, the actor who played Kojak, was born in New York City in 1922, to Greek immigrant parents.
Every nation has had citizens who have migrated to America to make significant contributions to our society. In fact, the photographer, Danny Goldfield, took photographs of children from every nation without leaving New York City.
But there is one more interesting immigrant. Donald Trump’s grandfather, Frederick Trump, was born in Germany in 1869, but migrated to America in 1885. He eventually followed the Yukon Gold Rush northward where he made his fortune operating a tent restaurant specializing in entrees made with horsemeat before moving back to New York.
Roger Guffey of Lexington is a math teacher.