What possibly could inspire someone to leave behind the comfort and familiarity of home and the warmth of friends and relatives to seek the unknown alone in a foreign land?
It's a question Republicans should ask as a panicked posse presses us to leave behind our principles in order to appeal to the growing immigrant vote. Here's a hint: The motivation is not a longing for big government.
I arrived in the United States as a refugee from Russia in 1994 with my family, a few bags and a dream of life in liberty.
After Russian police had torn apart my family's tiny apartment in Moscow to intimidate us, my mother looked my scared little brother in the eyes and told him: "Don't be afraid. In just a few days, we go to America. This will never happen there."
She had never been to the United States, but that didn't matter. She instinctively knew the meaning of freedom.
Every immigrant family, no matter its origins in Moscow, Macau or Mexico City, has such a story.
Something compelling unites those of us who seek refuge in America. We share a faith in the fruits of freedom and knowledge of the gloom and despair brought by its absence.
My family fled a government big enough to control the books we could read, careers we could pursue and how much hot water we could use in our apartment (none in the summer). So did other immigrants.
We fled from "free" and universal health care whose voice was the Soviet 9-1-1 operator coolly asking: "How old is the patient?" before sending an ambulance.
We fled the central planning that made bananas an unexpected luxury, bread and sugar prizes earned after a freezing, five-hour wait in line in winter, and mystery meat subject to rationing cards.
We fled the philosophy of taking from each according to his ability and giving to each according to his need, which made everyone equal in misery.
We fled a system that paid doctors as much as janitors to seek the risks and rewards of free enterprise based on a person's talents and perseverance.
Above all, we fled to find freedom.
Yet the clueless crowd would have Republicans seek the immigrant vote by adopting the same failed policies that immigrants watched bring devastation to the lands we once called home.
The demographics have changed forever, we hear, and for the GOP to survive, its vision must be given up in favor of the left's: more taxes, more government regulations, more spending, more handouts and more amnesty. Otherwise, Republicans can never hope to reach the Hispanics, Asians and many others who have long flocked to our shores and flourish as part of this new electorate.
As Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is fond of saying: "malarkey!"
There is a better way. Let us pledge to all new Americans that we will preserve the same ideals that drew them here -- limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise -- for those who are yet to come. Let us boldly champion these principles. Then, the natural audience we already enjoy by virtue of our common affinity for freedom is bound to turn into a timeless bond.
Our nation is fortunate not to have seen the chilling crescendo of Margaret Thatcher's truism: Socialism will always run out of other people's money.
I saw it firsthand. As the Soviet Union slid deeper into fiscal, political and moral bankruptcy, I remember watching the ideology that ruled that vast land through the eager muzzle of a gun completely collapse.
Now Republicans have a fleeting chance to join forces with survivors of such painful lessons from every corner of the world in order to save this nation from a similar fate.
To do that, our postelection marching orders could not be clearer. As Shakespeare wrote, "This above all: To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou cannot then be false to any man."
Igor Birman is chief of staff to Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican.