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Cunard and a compelling story of immigration

Cunard Line has put together a new video of Micky Arison talking about how Carnival Corp. came to own the storied brand, and it's worth seeing if you can get the opportunity. Among other things, it sheds some light on the immigration issue that is prominent in the current political debate.

The video begins with Arison reminiscing about coming to the U.S. on Cunard's Mauritania. It was 1954. Arison's father, Ted, who founded Carnival, moved the family from Israel to New York where he thought there would be better business opportunities. Micky, who was 5, recalls going to school in New Jersey and being driven along the West Side Highway past the trans-Atlantic liners at the pier.

Little did he imagine at the time, Arison said, that he would grow up to play an important role in the cruise industry.

Arison said he got the idea for a liner like the Queen Mary 2 after seeing the film "Titanic," with the nostalgic, romantic gloss it put on the ill-fated ship.  The 1997 film was the first film to gross more than $1 billion.

In 1998, Carnival bought 68% of Cunard for $425 million, buying the rest later.

Arison said it is often misunderstood that Carnival conceived of the Queen Mary 2 after deciding to buy Cunard. The reality is (one of Arison's favorite phrases) that Carnival conceived of the ship first and only bought Cunard because It needed the historic brand to make the concept work.

Ted Arison came to the U.S. via Cunard when immigration was at a low ebb. It had been 30 years since the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 had been passed "to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity," according to a State Department history. It would be another 10 before the law was liberalized by Congress after President Kennedy's death.

America was as homogenous as it would ever be in 1954. Yet it still had room for someone born in Tel Aviv when it was part of British Palestine. That's to America's credit.

Open immigration is a blunt instrument. Some immigrants may turn out to be criminals. Most are ordinary like the rest of us. But some, perhaps a disproportionate number, are extraordinary, like Ted Arison. Is there any doubt that the U.S. economy is better off with Carnival Corp. headquartered in Miami instead of Tel Aviv?

Josh Leibowitz, senior vice president of Cunard North America, said the Arison video wasn't created with the idea it would be widely distributed. But if there's a Cunard sales event in your town, it will probably be shown. If you make time to see it you won't be sorry.

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