Fully 51 percent – a majority – of billion dollar startup companies in the United States have immigrants as their founders, according to a new study published by the National Foundation for American Policy. In spite of the often repeated claims by politicians and the media that other countries are not sending their best and their brightest to the United States. These findings suggest that a significant portion of America’s own best and brightest came to this country as immigrants.
Given that Hispanics currently make up the vast majority of all immigrants who come to this country, they clearly stand a lot to lose when Washington fails to see the benefits of a freer and more open immigration system; so do the rest of us who are already here, policymakers should take note: expanded immigration is not a cost to be borne, but an opportunity to be welcomed that benefits immigrants and make America stronger as a whole.
Out of the 87 U.S. startup companies – currently valued at $1 billion or more – 44 were founded by immigrants. “These 44 companies, the study says, are collectively valued at $168 billion and create an average of roughly 760 jobs per company in the U.S.,” writes Yoree Koh for the Wall Street Journal. “The study also estimates that immigrants make up over 70 percent of key management or product development positions at these companies.”
A disproportionate share of immigrants to the United States come from Latin America, meaning restrictions on migration seriously affect Hispanics. Studies like this one reinforce the theory that immigrants are exceptionally entrepreneurial, as is apparent in existing data on high business startup rates among Hispanics and the foreign born population. American businesses understand the benefit that immigrants bring, and know an opportunity when they see one. Recently tech leaders and CEOs in the United States – including figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates – have joined calls for expanding H-1B visas and other programs in order to satisfy the demand for top-talent.
Nevertheless, recent bills in the U.S. Senate fly in the face of this growing body of evidence that demonstrates the economic, social, and cultural benefits to immigration; the measures seek to raise restrictions on the visa system, such as requiring immigrants to hold advanced degrees and have many years of overseas work experience. For would-be entrepreneurs, who often hail from developing countries with little opportunity to put their talents and ideas to use, such restrictions could prove extremely damaging to individual immigrants, but also to the country that should be welcoming them.
As it stands, the current process to acquire a visa is unnecessarily complicated and cumbersome. H-1B visas are capped at only 85,000 per year, no matter how many workers or American companies apply for them. Our economy will thrive if we have a flexible and market-driven approach to immigration that doesn’t place unnecessary restrictions on U.S. employers. The evidence is clear: it’s time to let the market do its job.