“Mohammed said he was getting his PhD in oil fracking,” Ghadar recalls. “I said, ‘You must be in great demand.’ He said ‘Yes, but I’m going to end up going to Australia.’ I asked him why he wasn’t staying here. ‘Well they can’t get me an H-1B visa,’ he said. This is an industry that’s making us self-sufficient in gas and oil, and here’s a critical person getting a PhD in this area. And our industries can’t keep him here?”
That encounter inspired a new book, Becoming American: Why Immigration Is Good for Our Nation's Future. Hear Ghadar discuss the book in this Alumni Books Podcast.
An author of 14 books, Ghadar is founding director of the Center for Global Business Studies at Penn State University and Distinguished Scholar and Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. Until this book, he says, he had never addressed immigration, a topic that has long concerned him. And the timing of its publication this spring couldn’t be better, he says. For a federal government stalled on immigration reform, the book offers several contemporary stories of immigrants overcoming the hurdles and misconceptions about them to find success in America.
Ghadar begins by debunking myths about immigration and offering research and data in their place: immigrants, as a percentage of the U.S. population, are not at an all-time high; 42 percent of all current Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants; and spending by immigrants and their families will surpass $2 trillion this year.
The book ends with a chapter entitled “Blueprints for Policymakers” at a time when Ghadar believes Congress needs one most. “The political system has come to a stall,” he says. “You can argue the statistics and the facts and show them what is going on, but people are getting scared and paranoid. It’s going to take a while for reality to come back in.”
Ghadar also interlaces memoir into his argument. He tells his family’s story of emigrating from and back to Iran both before and after college. His father, the head of its intelligence agency, resigned just before the Shah was toppled, and Ghadar, then a minister of exports, also foresaw bleak times for his native land.
“Like many other immigrants before and after me, I had become aerodynamic,” Ghadar writes. “Shaped by the stronger than normal forces I had encountered in my lifetime as an immigrant. I worked hard not to be knocked over by these forces, which often led to sacrifices.”