The U.S. economy has long been powered by migrants and immigrants. New populations provided diversity, increased innovation, and created a pool of new entrepreneurs. But they also depressed wages in some sectors, including service, agriculture, and engineering. Some immigrants achieved success. Others experienced hardship. Most sought expanded opportunities for their children.
F-1 to H-1B Visa
American universities continued to be a magnet for immigrants. Yogeeswaran Ganesan was born in India and came to the U.S. on an F-1 student visa to study in the nanoscience program at Rice University. Upon graduation, Intel hired him as a semiconductor research scientist and obtained for him an H-1B non-immigrant visa.
To obtain non-immigrant visas for foreign employees to work in the U.S., companies must prove there is a shortage of qualified citizens. This is often controversial.
Shigefumi Tachibe was born in Japan and trained in Italy. He came to the U.S. on an E-2 “investor” visa to set up and run a high-end sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills, California. Chef Tachibe paired his food memories of home with Los Angeles experiences to create new fusion dishes.
H-1A Visa to Permanent Resident
To relieve a nursing shortage, the federal government gave special visas to foreign nurses and eventually allowed them to become permanent residents. Filipina nurses like Maria Jayme were highly valued because they spoke English.
Counterfeit Passport to Citizenship
Operators of a garment sweatshop in El Monte, California, doctored U.S. tourist visas with new photographs, enabling them to smuggle workers into the U.S. In 1995, the shop was raided. The workers were given S visas, so they could be witnesses. Ultimately they won permanent resident status and then citizenship.
Some migrants illegally came to the U.S. seeking opportunity, often taking jobs in low-wage areas, such as agriculture, garment production, construction, and landscaping. To enter the country, many risked crossing the desert that forms the U.S./Mexican border. Hundreds died in the attempt each year.