Immigration & The American Dream


Nice article by Kevin Maggiacomo describing the American immigrant story: Has The U.S. Lost The American Dream? Well, the immigrant story for those who came en mass. In many locations around the US, and elsewhere in the world, people – even towns – immigrated and resettled into close knit communities where they maintained their cultural identity. In some cases this was out of necessity since they were discriminated against by the people already there. In other cases it was just more comfortable. Then again, there were other immigrants who didn’t migrate in sufficient numbers to create these communities and had other challenges to face in their relative isolation.

As the article implies, it is in these reconstituted towns and villages that skills from the “old country” could be put to work because they found willing buyers. To use a more contemporary expression, these were ready-made ecosystems that provided for their members.

Contrary to the articles implications, this type of economic development did not end with the 19 century waves of immigration to the United States. The model has been reproduced by each successive group of immigrants: Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Mexicans, Pakistani, and so on. As with the Italians, and the Irish before them, and the Germans before them, … these immigrants supported one another in their process of social and economic integration. Each group had to fight for their place. Yes, sometimes even through the use of violence: gangs, mafias and such.

What is important to note here is the access to capital. Mr. Maggiacomo’s grandmother was able to engage in micro-lending because the family had an excess of capital to lend. In today’s America, other immigrants engage in the same practices. The most notable are the Koreans, from what I recall.

From this perspective, the loss of the American Dream is actually the success of the American Dream that the Maggiacomo family has experienced as they are now a large regional bank and fully integrated into the national fabric. What has been lost is that ready-made ecosystem of like-minded immigrants. By seeking those who are different Mr Maggiacomo is trying to tap into other ecosystems that are more distant from his immigrant Italian roots.