THE BLOG

A Defining Moment: Immigration Reform in 2014

At the core of human motivation is the idea that tomorrow can be better than today. That together, through hard work and dedication, we can create a future more promising than our past. It is a simple idea, but an idea nonetheless that has shaped the contours of this great country. Important junctures in America's history have tested its resolve to ensure that such hope is not lost to competing self-interest. As we heard during the State of the Union, both the president and the House Republican Leadership recognize that we again face a once-in-a-generation opportunity to instill hope and improve the future for millions of individuals through immigration reform that will preserve the United States as a beacon for legal immigrants around the world.

As the leader of a global business group I have seen on multiple occasions how America has showered opportunity and hope on many within our group (and my family) who have come from an immigrant background. America has revolutionized their lives in ways they never could have dreamed.

My heritage is Greek, my education is British and my spirit is American. I am now a proud resident of the United States, and my story is possible only because wise souls in the past recognized that empowerment trumps dejection, and that opportunity should be based on potential and not experience alone.

It began for me at the age of 19 when I took the helm of my family's shipping business. Today our group controls 30 subsidiaries operating across five continents and is predominantly focused on five core sectors: shipping, aviation, real estate, hospitality and energy. It was the freedom of movement of people and ideas that in a large part allowed this group to be built.

There are many stories from immigrants who have made a tremendous impact in this country and their communities. The co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, is an immigrant as is Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube and Andy Grove, the creator of Intel. Tellingly, over 40 percent of fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or kids thereof. Though unique in many ways, these entrepreneurs share a common bond. Someone gave them the chance. Someone believed in them. That common bond helped make them who they are and get them to where they are today.

You need not start a fortune 500 company to contribute meaningfully to the American way of life. Lesser skilled workers complement, rather than compete with American workers. They bring with them a sense of hope which is infectious. Immigrants exemplify the social mobility that underpins the American dream.

The American story tells us that when immigrants have the same fighting chance to succeed, we are all better off for it. The entrepreneurial spirit that has defined business in this country runs deep in immigrant communities: historically, immigrants are much more likely to start a business than those that were born here -- creating jobs and higher wages for all American workers. That is because immigrants are dreamers and risk-takers. They arrive here with the conviction that, in this great country, hard work and talent do not go unrewarded. The United States must not stifle hope by a failure to see the bigger picture on immigration reform.

At Libra, we built our company not under the false pretense that it would be easy, but precisely because we knew it would be difficult. Part of that difficulty was fighting to maintain a deeper sense of humanity, of kindness to the employees who make our business what is today, and the many partners and millions of customers we serve globally. In our experience immigration, the merging of cultures and the cross-fertilization of ideas has made us stronger.

That is the spirit that the Congress and the administration must summon as they forge a comprehensive immigration reform solution. Together with the president, who has shown leadership in initiating commonsense immigration reform, there remains a historic opportunity to pass further reform in 2014. Often what is most rewarding is most difficult to achieve. We must decide whether, as a country, we confront difficulties and take the path of wisdom and reflection, or give into the forces that divide us.