jurvetson / flickrGoogle founder Sergey Brin was born in Russia. He immigrated to the United States at the age of 6.America finally has an opportunity to establish a sensible immigration policy in the coming months.
The effects of the policy will have far reaching ramifications in terms of both economic and social implications for the country in years to come.
The debate about the immigration bill is entering a period of elevated rhetoric, where the media and legislators are honing in on specific tradeoffs that could help the imbill get ratified in the Senate.
As Congress bickers, it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture.
Here are 3 core facts that everyone should remember:
Fact 1: Immigrant graduates are an engine for innovation and job creation
The world as we know it is changing at a rate that’s unprecedented. That change is made possible by innovation.
One of the epicenters of American innovation is the US higher education system, where the world’s best and brightest are trained to help tackle the world’s most daunting challenges and opportunities.
For every 100 immigrants who earn advanced degrees in the US and then stay to work in technical fields, an average of 262 jobs are created for American workers. Additionally, some of the leading researchers and academics in the country were born outside the US.
More than 3 out of every 4 patents that the top 10 US-patent producing universities received in 2011 had an immigrant inventor. Nearly half of the Ph.D students and over half of the postdoctoral fellows studying science or engineering at US universities were foreign born. 25% of the Americans who have historically won the Nobel Prize have been immigrants, despite representing 12% of the US population.
The existing system makes it increasingly difficult for these graduates to stay on in the US following their graduation. Their home countries are welcoming them with open arms, realising both the economic and cultural significance of what they represent.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and maths) graduates are key to catalyzing and sustaining economic growth.
Fact 2: Immigrants are more entrepreneurial than their native-born counterparts
By virtue of selecting to emigrate to the United States, immigrants are more than twice as likely as native born Americans to start a business. 28% of all companies founded in the US in 2011 had immigrant founders.
What’s remarkable is that this trend has been sustaining for decades in the US. 40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant. The list of iconic technology companies founded by immigrants is well known: Intel, Yahoo, eBay, Paypal, Google, YouTube and Instagram are all examples.
Less known is the fact that even the pioneering financiers of these companies were immigrants. General Georges Doriot, considered to be the father of Venture Capital, was a French émigré who founded American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC) in 1946.
Eugene Kleiner, an Austrian immigrant who famously defected with 7 of his colleagues to form Fairchild Semiconductor early in his career, later cofounded iconic VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers.
More recently, some of the superstar investors at firms like Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital have been born outside the US. Silicon Valley embodies a well functioning entrepreneurial ecosystem made possible in no small part by the continued contributions of immigrants from around the world.
Fact 3: Immigrants fill jobs that native-born Americans can’t
There is little doubt that the US education system will require a major overhaul to train workers for changing needs in the labour markets.
These changes will take time – immigrants play a large role in filling in gaps in the interim. Even with over an 8 per cent unemployment rate, the US government estimates that there are currently more than 3.8 million jobs left unfilled.
Immigrants can help fill these jobs because immigrants and native born have very different vocational profiles. Immigrants are far more likely to be low skilled, but also more likely to be high skilled.
For example, in the healthcare industry, immigrants are more than twice as likely to be physicians and surgeons at the high skilled end, but also nearly twice as likely to be low-skilled nursing assistants and home health aides.
Some industries are entirely dependent on immigrant labour: Roughly 80 per cent of all seasonal agriculture workers in the US are foreign born.
What can you do?
I am co-chairing an initiative, on behalf of the Partnership for a New American Economy, that enables a variety of opinions to be heard on the topic.
The initiative is called the Virtual March for Innovation (www.marchforinnovation.com) and allows for millions of Americans to make their voices heard on the topic to their elected legislators.
Over the course of the next two days, leaders from a diverse set of fields like technology, media, and politics will coalesce around the topic of comprehensive immigration reform and discuss what core tenets of policy reform must be included in a final bill.
For the first time, you can participate in this discussion live from your living room or desk by using social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Google Hangout. Leaders like Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Condoleezza Rice, Steve Case and Rahm Emanuel are coming together over the course of two days to participate in the discussion.
Each tweet, like or comment forms a narrative that can help shape the course of immigration reform for decades to come.
Somesh Dash is a principle at Institutional Venture Partners, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms. He is co-chair of the Virtual March for Innovation. Institutional Venture Partners is an investor in Business Insider, Inc.
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