Celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month by reading these five stories

Learn more about Laura Collins.
Laura Collins
Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative
George W. Bush Institute

America benefits from immigration. Immigrants strengthen our economy – opening businesses and creating jobs, driving innovation, and performing essential work. Immigrants help our culture flourish – introducing new sounds, smells, movement, and sights for us to experience. And immigrants are woven into our communities – they are our friends and neighbors; they are our community helpers and teachers; and, for some, they are family.

America’s immigration system needs to be updated to ensure the future prosperity, vitality, and security of our nation, but discussions over what that new system will look like are often contentious. The Bush Institute believes we can be a welcoming nation and a lawful one at the same time – but we need a system that meets modern migration challenges to do that.

This Immigrant Heritage Month, I encourage you to explore the stories below, which provide a snapshot of America’s immigrants. Immigration is embedded in our history, and it will be an important part of our future if we are willing to face the challenge.

Indra Nooyi 

Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, in conversation at the 2024 Forum on Leadership. Photo by Grant Miller Photography for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, came to the United States from India to attend Yale University in 1980. Like many others, education was her ticket to the United States. She established herself as a brilliant strategist with a tireless work ethic in the business community early in life, which led her to many successful years of leading PepsiCo with a “performance with purpose” philosophy.  

She was awarded the George W. Bush Medal for Distinguished Leadership at the 2024 Forum on Leadership for her immeasurable impact on the global community. She joined Bush Center President and CEO Ken Hersh in a keynote conversation about her leadership and shared her thoughts on how the United States serves as a beacon of hope and opportunity for so many: “I feel a deep sense of gratitude for what this country has done for me.” 

Nooyi is a purposeful and compassionate leader and has undoubtedly made America better. She is also included in President George W. Bush’s book, Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants 

Daniel Lubetzky 

Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and Executive Chairman Kind LLC, in conversation at the 2023 PLS Reunion. Photo by Grant Miller Photography for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and Executive Chairman of KIND Snacks, moved to San Antonio from Mexico City with his family when he was nearly 16 years old. We know immigrant entrepreneurs play a major role in the economic growth and prosperity of a country, and this common entrepreneurial spirit was ingrained in Lubetzky as a young child by his father. He knew he wanted to start businesses that both made money and served a social good. And after many ventures and impactful roles in his early career, he founded KIND Snacks in 2004.  

Lubetzky joined The Strategerist podcast to discuss his civic movements, OneVoice and Starts With Us, as well as his family’s journey, the current situation in Israel and Gaza, and the importance of pluralism. He envisions a world with more kindness and empathy, and, as the son of a Holocaust survivor, Lubetzky works to channel his business and citizenry toward building bridges and overcoming division.  

Thear Suzuki 

Thear Suzuki, Global Client Service Partner at Ernst & Young, gives her testimony at the 2021 Forum on Leadership. Photo by Grant Miller Photography for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Thear Suzuki is Global Client Service Partner at Ernst & Young and a 2019 Presidential Leadership Scholar. She was 2 years old when her life in Cambodia was uprooted and her family was forced into labor camps by the Khmer Rouge. After several years in war and refugee camps, an organization in Dallas sponsored the family to come to the United States.  

It was a difficult transition for the family, as it is for many who come to a new country with few possessions and no knowledge of the language. Suzuki cites the kindness and support of others in her community as helping her find hope, courage, and tremendous success in the United States.  

Suzuki, who is also painted in Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants, gave a testimonial at the 2021 Forum on Leadership: “I envision a world in which all people feel free and safe to be themselves and to use their gifts and talents to help others.” 

Roya Mahboob 

Roya Mahboob stands next to her portrait in the Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants special exhibit. Photo by Grant Miller Photography for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Roya Mahboob is the Founder of the Afghan Citadel Software Company, the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, and the Digital Citizen Fund and is a 2019 Presidential Leadership Scholar. As one Afghanistan’s first tech CEOs, she provides women – in Afghanistan and in developing countries around the world – a platform to share their stories, an opportunity to learn, and hope for their future.  

She came to New York City from Afghanistan on a work visa in 2014 after receiving constant threats from the Taliban to cease and desist. Her courage to continue to fight for her business and to advocate for women and girls is inspiring to so many, and the United States is privileged to have people like Mahboob choose to make it their home. 

Mahboob shares her personal journey and tells the Afghan Girls Robotics Team’s remarkable story on The Strategerist podcast. She’s also featured in Out of Many, One 

Juan Carlos Hernandez  

Photo courtesy Juan Carlos Hernandez

Juan Carlos Hernandez was a door gunner on a Chinook 47 for the U.S. Army. On Oct. 13, 2009, while conducting a routine nighttime air mission in Afghanistan, an enemy rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hit his helicopter. He lost his right leg below the knee from the shrapnel that came through the floor of where he was standing. 

Before Hernandez was injured in Afghanistan, and before he made the decision to protect the United States, Juan was a scared 9-year-old boy trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border with his brothers to be reunited with their mom. 

When Juan was 3 years old, his mom left Mexico for the United States to try to create a better life for herself and three sons. Hernandez and his brothers stayed with his grandfather until his mom had earned enough money to pay for her sons to cross the border. 

Hernandez was profiled in President Bush’s book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. He is one of the hundreds of thousands of immigrant veterans comprising 4.5% of the nation’s 16.2 million total veterans. Continue reading his story.  

Explore more of these stories in Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants.