Fights tonight. Irish fights. The best kind.
Okay, maybe women fighting is a bit more entertaining and not for the reasons you think, but women are the only demographic that can match Irish men fighting for pure intensity and guts – night after night after night in the ring. Tonight’s fight card features Barry Quinn, Immigrant, Fighter, Businessman. He was likely a fighter before he immigrated to the United States, but this is the story of the Barry Quinn that I know, and the foreign engineers and friends that work beside me every day, and why I don’t understand people not supporting an open immigration policy.
Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt
I admit it. I’m a globalist. I don’t care where you came from or what your culture is. If you’re adding value to society, I want you in this country. I don’t believe that we, as US citizens, have more of an inborn right to the advantageous opportunities that our society provides us than someone who happened to be born on non-US dirt. If a foreigner is willing to outwork and out-hustle you to snatch that opportunity from your hands, so be it. I struggle to understand why anyone thinks they’re more entitled than someone born in a different country. This is America – the land of opportunity. Opportunities are never equally distributed in any society, but the closer we approach equal distribution of opportunities in this world, the more likely we’ll see the best among us rise to their appropriate rung on the ladder of achievement. America once led the way in distributing those opportunities, but distribution has slowed due to our immigration policy that doesn’t encourage even the smartest and hardest working people in the world to stick around.
I work with immigrants every day – Indians, Asians, Eastern European, and on and on. I LOVE working with them. They’re smart. They work hard. They take nothing for granted. Those immigrants who come here on a work visa are the direct antithesis of the modern college student in terms of opportunities. They will not have multiple opportunities to work for different companies or time between jobs or after college to figure out what they want to do with their life. They have one opportunity with one company. Their choices are skewed towards being a slave to that one opportunity over starting all over again hoping and praying to get another opportunity with another company before their visa expires and they go back to the beginning of their journey. I can’t wrap my head around the hoops they must jump through and the sacrifices they must endure for that one opportunity.
Contrast that with the opportunities that young US citizens are not embracing. Unemployment in the technology sector in the Philadelphia region is low – very low. The national average may be 7-20% depending on which way you slice the numbers, but technology sector unemployment is 1-2%. A primary reason for that is that not enough students in the US are pursuing science and engineering degrees. Science and engineering is hard, so it doesn’t surprise me that students are not pursuing these degrees. If you want “the college experience”, liberal arts and business is the way to go. Too many students in the US believe that “the good life” will be handed to them after “the college experience”. That doesn’t happen and they’re left with high unemployment and their generation falling behind.
While they’re falling behind, I’ll take the foreign engineers and make them citizens. They want it. At least the hard-working, smart ones that I know want it.
Barry Quinn wanted it – not an engineering degree, but a better life. He stepped off the boat, barely speaking intelligible US English. He fought his way to a better life, opening a stone masonry business, becoming a well-respected martial arts teacher, and a proud father and husband. Barry trained trained many of the fighters competing on the fight card tonight and wanted to see everyone do well. He also wanted the event to be a success, since it benefited Irish youth activities in the Philadelphia area, and so he volunteered to fight only two weeks ago.
Barry’s wife, Grainne, was nervous about his fight tonight. Barry put himself in a tough position volunteering to fight a professional MMA fighter in a Muay Thai match. Actually, it wasn’t supposed to be a Muay Thai match, but it ended up becoming one when no one informed the referee, my karate teacher Andy Carr, of the rules for the bout. When they asked him to referee the match one minute before the fight started, there was no time for rules to be covered. Don’t look for organization from the Irish. It’s not our cup of tea.
Barry was a bit nervous before the fight and I understood why. Barry is 40 years old and was fighting without his normal two months of insane physical and mental preparation and he was challenging a young man in his prime. He should be nervous. In addition, Barry has been training in a Muay Thai lately, but watching him warm-up, it still wasn’t second nature to him. Barry is an excellent, tough technical boxer with solid and sometimes spectacular kicks. He needed to rely on his bread-and-butter style to put on a good show tonight. He did.
The fight was a bit cautious to start. It was a benefit card after all, so normally the fights are a bit restrained. There’s a bit of an unwritten code here similar to professional wrestling with the challenge being: You never know when you’ll encounter a nut case or poke a sleeping bear too hard. Barry looked solid. He showcased his workmanlike boxing combinations with his most effective shots coming on breaks. These were legal shots, since the referee was letting everything go and not breaking the action himself. Barry only struggled with getting stuck in the Muay Thai clinch and eating some knees, which was understandable, since he didn’t think it was a Muay Thai fight. As referee, Andy also acted as a good fight promoter would want by yelling at the fighters in their corners between the 2nd and 3rd rounds to pick up the pace for the final round. They did and Barry looked like an old pro. He controlled the action with his boxing, but started to unleash thunderous knees with his opponent on the ropes. He brought the complete package, surprised his younger opponent, and surely would have taken a decision had the fight been judged.
That’s the fighting machine, Barry Quinn. Another immigrant story is that of one of my best friends, Ravindar (Rav) Gujral. He’s as American as apple pie, except for his name and how he pronounces technology – “tech – na – low – gee”. Rav has been in the US for over a decade, received his Master’s degree in software engineering from Drexel, and has coached Agile software development teams at Siemens, GE, and now at one of those do-gooder companies that employ only people with really high character and principles. Seriously, they clean up a pound of ocean waste for every pound of clothing they sell. Would you classify them as anything, but a “do-gooder” company?
Rav is a philosopher-king. Sometimes that philosophy is analyzing the inadequacies of society. Sometimes, that is philosophy is opining on living a samurai-lifestyle by focusing on mastering your craft like writing code or managing people writing code or writing code to manage people writing code. And sometimes, it’s rationalizing living a vegetarian lifestyle with Five Guy’s burger wrappers lying strewn in piles along the outskirts of his abode. Don’t you want Rav living in your country?
I do and we almost lost him to Australia. After getting fed up with the Bush policy of establishing an American Gladiators-decade long gauntlet to get your green card, Rav forked over a couple grand to the kangaroo-meat-eating, obesity-leading, surf-inspiring land of Australia. I know nothing about Australia other than knowing a couple great Toastmasters that love the “land down under”, but I know they’ve chosen the US despite their relationship with it.
This is what the US immigration policy drives you to do. We should want smart people with Master’s degrees in engineering to stay in this country. We should want people that work hard to create a better life for themselves, their families, and everyone they touch through their lives in this country. Many of us do want that. The United States as a country is also not entitled to enduring opportunities and the highest quality of life. I’d ask those of you that aren’t 100% sure whether you want those people to have an easy path to a green card and citizenship: What do you think the US will become when we don’t attract and retain the most talented and hardest working people in this world?
I expect we’ll be just another average country with an average quality of life.
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
―Emma Lazarus’ poem, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty