The Most Inspiring Immigration Stories Of 2022 – Forbes
Katya Echazarreta immigrated to America with her parents from Mexico as a seven-year-old, earned a … [+]
The year 2022 saw many immigrants and their children make memorable contributions to America. Here are the most inspiring immigration stories of 2022.
In 2022, Josh Wardle, a former international student and software engineer from the United Kingdom, achieved the American Dream in record time. In October 2021, he designed the online game Wordle, which became a phenomenon played by millions. Only three months later, in January 2022, the New York Times purchased Wordle for “an undisclosed seven-figure sum.” Wordle is played by using six turns to guess a five-letter word. Wardle came to America as an international student and earned an MFA in digital arts at the University of Oregon before becoming an engineer at Reddit and Pinterest.
In Streets of Gold: America’s Untold Story of Immigrant Success, economics professors Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan found that today’s immigrants assimilate as well as past immigrants, and their children are better off economically than the children of native-born. Katya Echazarreta is a good example.
At the age of seven, Katya Echazarreta immigrated to America with her parents from Mexico. “She recalls being overwhelmed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her she might have to be held back,” according to CNN. Katya worked four jobs in college and contributed to her family’s income in high school, including by working at McDonald’s. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UCLA, worked for two years as an electrical engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and expects to complete her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University in 2023. On June 4, 2022, she was selected to join a Blue Origin spaceflight. Her goal is to make travel in space accessible to people like her, those who start life with little means but have big American dreams.
In a stirring ovation captured on video, night custodian Leo Magalang came to work after becoming a new American citizen and “staff and students at his elementary school in Plainfield, Illinois, lined the halls to congratulate him, wave American flags and chant ‘Leo’ and ‘USA,’” reported the New York Post.
After Frances Tiafoe reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in September 2022, his family’s inspiring background came to light. “Tiafoe’s uplifting story began when his parents—who had not yet met—left Sierra Leone for the United States in the 1990s to escape a civil war,” writes David Waldstein in the New York Times. “They each moved to the United States and, after they met, settled down in Maryland and had twin boys, Franklin and Frances.”
Frances Tiafoe celebrates after defeating Andrey Rublev during their Men’s Singles Quarterfinal … [+]
“The boys’ father, Constant Tiafoe, found work on the construction site for the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md. Constant Tiafoe was so industrious, he was offered the job of the maintenance director of the facility,” according to Waldstein. “He was given an office, where sometimes the twins slept, the better to, as they grew big enough to hold rackets, spend time on the courts. . . Frances displayed a unique passion, watching the lessons given to the older boys at the center and mimicking their every move, then hitting balls off walls and serving to ghosts on outer courts until dark.” Frances Tiafoe’s talent and hard work paid off. He is ranked 19th in the world with over $7 million in career earnings.
Megan Khang hits a shot on the 1st green during the final round of the Cognizant Founders Cup at … [+]
In 2022, Megan Khang achieved four top-ten finishes on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. The success came years after her parents came to America as refugees. “Her parents were children when they fled Laos with their families after the Vietnam War,” according to Gene Wang in the Washington Post. “They don’t remember a great deal from that time, Megan indicated, with spotty recollections of having to wait in Thailand before being granted asylum in the United States. When Lee Khang was 7, his older brothers arranged to have a boat meant for six passengers carry a dozen or so family members across the Mekong River into Thailand. They went through checkpoints bribing guards to allow passage and eventually settled in Brookline, Mass., thanks to American sponsorship.”
Wang describes how when Khang was a little girl, she “would hit golf balls from her parents’ garage in Massachusetts, where her father, then a mechanic, fixed cars. Occasionally the dimpled orbs—her favorite was emblazoned with a Pokémon logo—sailed through the practice netting and into his office. Lee Khang never minded the distraction because he was fully invested in his daughter’s budding skills, eventually retiring from his full-time trade and parting ways with a garage he managed in Rhode Island to support Megan’s dream of playing professionally. That sacrifice was among many Megan’s family made for their daughter.”
In 2022, this Forbes column told the stories of three entrepreneurs to remember. With poor lab equipment and a crumbling Russian economy, Gleb Yushin decided the only way he could become a scientist was to immigrate. He chose America. He became an international student and earned a Ph.D. in materials science at North Carolina State. The early years were tough, with little money and a new child, but, he said, “What helped a lot were remarkably friendly and supportive people on campus and in the city.”
Today, he has over 200 patents connected to expanding the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries for electrical vehicles and other uses. He cofounded Sila Nanotechnologies, valued at over $3 billion and employing 350 people. Yushin believes he never could have developed his technology in Russia. America helps immigrants reach their potential, which also helps Americans. “I don’t think there is another country on the planet where I could cofound and build a company like Sila,” said Yushin.
The three founders of Sila Nanotechnologies in 2022: CEO Gene Berdichevsky (l), CTO Gleb Yushin (c) … [+]
Ben Liu’s parents immigrated from Taiwan when he was two. “When my parents decided where they wanted to raise kids, a big part was looking at a country where they felt their children would have the biggest opportunities,” he said. Liu is CEO of TrialSpark. The company has 110 employees and is valued at over $1 billion. TrialSpark uses technology to automate and streamline clinical trials as a way to bring many more drugs to market—and faster. “I think the United States is the best place in the world to build something ambitious,” said Liu. “I am so grateful to my parents for their decision to come to the United States.”
In July 1967, Iraj Dabirsiaghi, a former captain of the Iranian national soccer team, played a match against the club sponsored by the Shah of Iran, the country’s dictator. His team defeated the Shah’s club and allies of the Shah retaliated by dissolving Iraj’s team. For Iraj, it was the final straw. He decided to leave Iran to further his education and for a chance at greater freedom in America.
In the United States, Iraj earned a B.S., taught math in Baltimore for 30 years and had three kids. Arshan Dabirsiaghi was one of those three children. In 2014, Arshan cofounded Contrast Security, a company valued at over $1 billion with approximately 400 employees. Sometimes a soccer game is just a soccer game. Sometimes it leads to a nice life, a good family and a billion-dollar company.
Not all hedge funds are alike. One fund the Wall Street Journal featured in 2022 was Legalist Inc., “a technology-powered investment firm” started by immigrant Eva Shang and her partner Christian Haigh. The fund’s strategy focuses on litigation finance (i.e., backing lawsuits for “a percentage of court-awarded judgments”).
“Ms. Shang emigrated to the U.S. from China at age 3 and grew up mostly in a Philadelphia suburb where her mother supported the family working as an actuary,” reported Matt Wirtz for the Wall Street Journal. “Ms. Shang began proofreading her mother’s résumés at age 7, she said, and helped care for her younger sister, Melissa Shang, who has a form of muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.”
Behind the image of Afghans clinging to departing American plane after the fall of Kabul, CBS News reporter Musadiq Bidar told the story of his family’s flight from Afghanistan 25 years earlier and their life as refugees in America. His father, a radio journalist, had been reporting on the Taliban’s human rights abuses and “became a target” when the Taliban takeover began in the 1990s. The family’s choice: “Stay home and face potential death or leave everything behind in search of freedom and opportunity.”
Musadiq’s family left Kabul in the middle of the night, “hiding in the homes of family and friends for months” before making it to a refugee camp in Pakistan. As a six-year-old, Musadiq needed to work up to ten hours daily in Pakistan to help put food on the family table. In 2003, after waiting years, his family received permission to come to America as a refugee. “To me,” Musadiq said, “education was the catalyst to success and America gave me the opportunity to seize it.” He says his family’s success is due to the mentors, friends, neighbors and volunteers who supported him and his refugee family at every step.