Immigrants diversify and strengthen the U.S. economy through entrepreneurship, new skill sets, and hard work. In the United States, 24.3% of engineering and technology start-up companies were founded by at least one immigrant. In Silicon Valley, 43.9% of technology start-ups had an immigrant founder (Kauffman Foundation study 2012). In California, immigrants add talent to a wide range of fields, from construction to manufacturing to telecommunications. Immigrants composed 34.6% of the state’s workforce in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). Throughout California and the South, thousands of immigrants and political refugees seeking U.S. citizenship perform grueling jobs in agriculture as well as the poultry and fishing industries.
The response from the federal government has been positive. Both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge that immigrants play a key role in stabilizing and growing the U.S. economy. In July 2012, the White House blog published a list of ten ways in which immigrants benefit the United States. The first two points focused on small business.
Immigrants are 30% more likely to start a new business in the United States than non-immigrants (U.S. Small Business Administration 2012). In 2007, immigrant-owned small businesses employed 4.7 million people. These businesses generate more than $776 billion per year (Fiscal Policy Institute 2007). The profits from immigrant-owned small businesses have a ripple effect. They increase the earnings of Americans who have more than a high school diploma and boost the demand for local consumer goods.
Immigrants also benefit the U.S. by helping an aging population meet its medical needs. Immigrants are almost twice as likely as U.S.-born workers to practice as physicians and surgeons. Immigrants make up a quarter of the workforce in the three fastest-growing job categories: home health aides, nursing aides, and personal-care aides (Brookings Institute study 2012).
The reason that immigration issues hit close to home in the San Francisco Bay Area is because approximately one in three residents is an immigrant (Fiscal Policy Institute 2012). Almost everyone has a close friend, business associate, or family member who settled in the United States. When you consider the many roles of immigrants whom you know, from father to artist, and engineer to janitor, it’s clear that immigrants are one of the reasons that the U.S. continues to be exceptional.