A Nation of Immigrants and Entrepreneurs

Across the United States, immigrants are starting and building successful businesses that create good American jobs and promote our country’s economic growth. These businesses form the fabric of our communities, and are part of our uniquely American heritage as a nation of immigrants and innovators.

To accelerate our nation’s economic momentum, we need an immigration system that works for America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners--a system that allows us to leverage the creativity and diversity of immigrant entrepreneurs to better compete in the global economy.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to meet with local business owners and leaders from the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce to discuss how commonsense immigration reform will help foster entrepreneurship and create jobs for workers, not only in New York, but across America.

Commonsense immigration reform has three pillars: smarter enforcement and continued border security; a path to citizenship for those who work hard and play by the rules; and an updated legal system that allows us to attract and retain entrepreneurs from around the world.

We know that immigrants over-index in entrepreneurship. In 2011 alone, immigrants started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses, despite accounting for only 13 percent of the U.S. population. And between 2006 and 2012, 44 percent of new tech startups in Silicon Valley had at least one immigrant founder.

Immigrant-owned businesses foster vitality, creativity and diversity in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. And, in addition to creating jobs here at home, they are helping to increase America’s global competitiveness by exporting and opening up markets around the world. Immigrants or their children also founded more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies, which collectively employ over 10 million people and generate annual revenue of $4.2 trillion.

Commonsense immigration reform expands on the successes of the business leaders who came to our country to build a better life and encourages the type of high-growth entrepreneurship that contributes to our long-term economic strength.

The bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill, which New York’s Senator Schumer championed along with Arizona Senator John McCain and others Democrats, Republicans and Independents in the Senate, makes meaningful improvements to the existing employment-based green card system and creates a new “startup visa” for immigrant entrepreneurs. This important tool would allow entrepreneurs like these who meet a threshold level of financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers to start businesses in the United States, and remain permanently if their companies grow and create jobs for American workers.

America is a nation of immigrants and a nation of entrepreneurs, and the Obama Administration is committed to honoring the legacy of innovation and competitiveness that has helped to make our country great. Passage by the House of Representatives of a balanced, comprehensive immigration reform bill is the next step forward in ensuring that America continues to attract the world’s best and brightest to start new businesses, create good jobs and help grow America’s middle class.

To learn more about the economic benefits of immigration reform in your state, click here.

Karen Mills is the Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

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