A Tale of Two Immigrants

By Larry Teren


Some immigration stories turn out well; others, just plain make you shake your head.  Take these two people and learn from them:  Gac Filipat (pronounced Gus Felipi) and Eduardo Saverin.

Mr. Filipat came to this country from Yugoslavia twenty years ago. He took a job as a custodian at Columbia University because they offered up to fourteen free college credits a year for employees. Columbia only accepts ten percent of applicants a year. He took them up on it while he went about his business of cleaning toilets and the like. By the way, a full year’s tuition at Columbia as of 2011 was pegged at $45,290. Slightly more than half the students were entitled to some type of financial assistance to a maximum of $40,259.

Gac came to this country speaking little English but ended up taking a heavy dose of English literature classics. He has fulfilled only half of his dream. He intends to stay on as a custodian and continue with graduate courses which are also payment exempt for employees. Not bad for a man of 52, huh?

On the other side of the coin is Eduardo Saverin. He was born in Brazil of wealthy stock. The family moved to Miami, Florida in the United States when he was thirteen where it was relatively safer as Eduardo had been the target of kidnapping attempts. He went  to Harvard University where he made friends with three other guys who created Facebook. He was not involved in the technological end but rather was the chief financial officer and business manager. There was a falling out between him and Mark Zuckerberg, the techno genius, and a parting of the ways. But not before his shares in the nascent company were established. As it stands now, Mr. Saverin, is eligible to own more than $3.5 billion dollars worth of Facebook stock after its imminent IPO.

This sounds like a nice fairy tale. Someone comes to this country for a better, safer life and makes a ton of money fulfilling the American Dream. He’ll probably show his appreciation by establishing a charitable trust foundation to help other Americans, right? Wrong!  Mr. Saverin left the good old US of A in 2009 to take up residence in Singapore. In 2011 he renounced his US citizenship to help reduce his capital gains tax obligations on his Facebook ownings. From what I have read, this can translate to a savings between $600 million to $1 billion. But even if the savings is only $300 million- after all, whats a few hundred million between friends?- there is a certain degree of disgust directed towards Eduardo.

On the one hand, we have a feel-good story of an immigrant coming to America to help it become a better country by adding his hard-scrubbed effort to be useful and productive. On the other hand, we have another type of immigrant who came here- maybe not because he wanted to- and made sure he took advantage of everything this country has to offer and gave back some tax money while he quickly exited to greener pastures.

Okay, we’ll take the money- we’re not that stupid.

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