Observations of an Expat: I am an Immigrant

July 15, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Tom Arms

I am an immigrant. I emigrated from the United States to the United Kingdom on the 12th of December 1971.

I had studied for a year in Britain 18 months before and fell in love with the country and one of its citizens and moved back despite the dreary weather and traffic jams.

I did not flee a Middle Eastern War. I did not turf up at Heathrow claiming political persecution. Neither was I escaping a life of poverty in an African mud hut. In fact, if I had stayed in America I would probably be enjoying a comfortable country club existence.

Nevertheless, I feel an affinity with African, Asian, Hispanic, or any person from any race or country who left their homeland to seek a new life. It is not easy to leave the safety net of cultural familiarity, family and friends.

If you are born to a country your acceptance is automatic. As an immigrant you have to constantly prove your worth and justify your decision to uproot your entire life and start afresh.

I feel I have succeeded. I started an international news agency which launched the careers of well over a hundred journalists. My children are all a credit to me as are the 200 boys—many of them now young men– who have passed through my scout group over the past 17 years.

I am not boasting. In fact, I don’t regard myself as particularly unusual. Immigrants in every country have outstanding records of contributing to their adopted homelands.

Think about it, by their very nature immigrants have proven through their actions that they are risk takers. They are adventurers. They are focused, determined and prepared to work hard to achieve their aims. Such people are assets to any community lucky enough to have them.


Reuters photo


Just ask the American shareholders of Ebay, Google, Intel, Yahoo and Sun Microsystems. They are all grateful to the immigrants who started the businesses which keep them in their gated communities and on their expensive golf courses. According to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants started 25% of America’s businesses financed by venture capital.

Here is another statistic for you, according to the US Small Business Administration, immigrants are 18 percent more likely to start a business than native born Americans. On top of that, those small businesses in 2015 employed 4.7 million Americans.

Donald Trump in America and the Brexiteers in Britain claim that immigrants are sucking their countries dry. Their views are echoed by a rapidly growing anti-immigration lobby throughout the Western world. Well, according to a report from University College London—one of the world’s top educational establishments—between 2004 and 2014, immigrants from the European Union put $15 billion more into the British economy than they took out. In fact,  the ethnic group which took out more in benefits than it put in was the native-born Brits who—over the same period—cost their country an estimated $700 billion more in welfare, education and health benefits than they paid in taxes.


Reuters/Chris Helgren



And what about the millions of aliens that Trump plans to deport? Well, according to the US Immigration Policy Centre, Latinos spent $1.5 trillion in 2015 and the Asians $775 billion. Of course, most of these people are legal, but still it is clear that if he has his way Trump will send a lot of money to the other side of his wall.

Opposition to immigration is not just based on cash. There is also a strong argument that they are undermining native cultures. It is true that people bring customs across borders. My family, for instance, make a point of celebrating Thanksgiving. Every year we invite our British friends and thank them for making us welcome. Some have adopted the custom.

Successive waves of immigrants have all been villified as cultural contaminants. The Irish and Poles were attacked as heathen Catholics. Italian immigrants were accused of stealing jobs. The Chinese and Japanese were lumped together as “The Yellow Peril.” But somehow they have all been absorbed into the overarching American culture while at the same time contributing their own customs which help to keep America the vibrant and exciting country that it is.






Tom Arms broadcasts on world affairs for a number of US radio stations including WTKF at http://www.wtkf107.com/. His Weekly Viewpoints discussion programme can be heard at 1830 EST on Wednesdays and his LookAhead at the next week’s main events on Fridays at 1800.


LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 18 July:






Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

Tom is also available as a Public Speaker and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and email: [email protected]


  1. Roman July 19, at 06:59

    I never worked abroad - only spent money - but would love to try working somewhere else for a while. And sure would like the world to stay as open as UK in EU, not like USA, where finding job seems to be impossible (I'd need work permit first which I can't get without a job offer which I will not get without work permit and so on...) /R.

  2. martina sternfeld July 17, at 08:21

    hi tom, I loved this. you say it all in a most touching way. it hits home on every level. I also loved your article on brexit. I emailed it to all my friends in the U.S.. the feedback has been that, of course, you're brilliant and that it helped them to understand what exactly that crucial vote meant to the U.K.. xoxo martina


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