Paul E. Jacobs

Highly skilled immigrants are critical to innovation and are important contributors to economic growth in the United States.

Paul E. Jacobs

In the last blog, I showcased first generation immigrants who have contributed to the economic well-being of the United States. Two most notable second generation immigrants (i.e. Americans born to first generation immigrants) are Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc. and Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon. Can you imagine life today without these two companies?

Steve Jobs in addition to co-founding Apple, Inc. is recognized as a pioneer of the microcomputer revolution. He was born on February 24, 1955 to Abdul Fattah Jandali, a young Syrian Muslim immigrant receiving his doctorate in political science at the University of Wisconsin and Joanne Schieble, a German-American student who took a class where Jandali was the teaching assistant. They fell in love, but her parents disapproved of her dating, much less marrying an Arab and a Muslim. She discovered she was pregnant and decided to go to San Francisco and to arrange the birth and adoption of Steve without telling her parents or Jandali.

The baby was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs and they named him Steve Paul Jobs. He felt he was blessed to have them as parents and did not like to have people refer to them as his adoptive parents. He said, “They were my parents 1,000%.”

Ten months after Joanne gave up Steve, she and Jandali married. Her father had died a few months earlier. They had a daughter who in later years established a relationship with her brother. Steve and Jandali never met.

Jeff Bezos, like Steve looks at his adoptive father as his legitimate parent. He was born Jeffrey Preston Jorgenson on January 12, 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His mother Jacklyn Gise Jorgenson was a 17 year old high school student and his father Ted Jorgenson owned a bike shop. The marriage fell apart and age 4, Jeff’s mother married Cuban immigrant Miguel “Mike” Bezos. Shortly after the wedding Mike adopted Jeff.

Mike Bezos came to Miami, Florida from Cuba at age 16, knowing very little English and wearing a jacket his mother had hand sewn from cleaning rags. He first stayed in Camp Matecumbe, a refugee camp in Florida for three weeks. He was sent to Wilmington, DE to attend high school and then received a scholarship to go to the University of Albuquerque. It was there he met and married Jeff’s mother. They then went to Houston, After Mike got a job as an engineer for Exxon. He stayed with the company for 30 years and looks back at his life as living the American Dream.

Jeff Bezos says of his father, Mike, “He had an enormous amount of grit and determination, but he also had incredibly kind and supportive people to help guide him along the way. May Dad’s story really show that people help each other.”

And Jeff Bezos also talks about the importance of immigration. “We’re a nation of immigrants whose diverse backgrounds, ideas, and points of view have helped us build and invent as a nation for over 240 years. No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants. It’s a distinctive competitive advantage for our country – one we should not weaken.” Amen.