U.S. Immigration – A Longtime Source of Job Creation
In times of economic uncertainty, arguments advocating for increased restrictions on U.S. immigration become more prevalent. Indeed, superficial logic would seem to support the idea that reducing the number of people coming to the United States would protect the jobs of those already here. But this flawed reasoning fails to account for the fact that throughout this country’s history, the world’s best and brightest have come to the United States to apply their talents and ingenuity toward the expansion of the U.S. economy through their entrepreneurship, and that has created jobs for all Americans.
Even well before the American Revolution, immigrants risked an often-perilous journey to American shores only to face significant danger and adversity as they made lives for themselves in a new land. For hundreds of years, intrepid newcomers followed the early arrivals’ footsteps to seek out opportunities of their own. Their mettle found fertile ground in the country’s capitalistic society, and over time, a strong culture of entrepreneurship emerged. This resulted in values like risk-taking and tenaciousness being deeply woven into our national fiber.
In fact, immigrant entrepreneurship is one of the major factors that has driven the United States’ rise as the world’s preeminent economic superpower. The country’s historical welcoming of immigrants has attracted talent from all over the world, and that talent has made groundbreaking scientific discoveries, devised world-changing inventions, and started companies that have created jobs for a multitude of American workers.
Today, immigrants in the United States continue the country’s long tradition of innovation. According to a recent report by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization, immigrants have founded more than half of the country’s startups that had a valuation of at least $1 billion, and the collective value of these companies was $168 billion. Furthermore, the average number of American jobs created was approximately 760 jobs per company. A similar study by the National Venture Capital Association found that a full 33% of U.S. venture-backed companies that became publicly traded between 2006 and 2012 were founded by immigrants. More recently, a 2019 study by New American Economy indicated that 45% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
It is likely that few of these billion-dollar companies would have been founded had previous attempts to restrict immigration to the United States been the law of the land over the past couple decades. In 2015, a so-called “American Jobs First Act” was introduced that would have significantly restricted a number of immigration avenues, including the H-1B category. Given the respective immigration histories of the founders of these billion-dollar startups, the United States would have missed out on the creation of tens of thousands of jobs had a measure like the “American Jobs First Act” been in effect before these companies were founded.
When faced with the possibility of a contracting economy, it is especially vital that we not succumb to reflexive, restrictive reactions that would have the opposite effect of the one intended. We should instead continue our long tradition of openness that has impelled the “rising tide” of entrepreneurship that has lifted all Americans.