Adam Bluestein places a dollar figure on the need for comprehensive immigration reform – the most entrepreneurial group in America are not born here:
Despite accounting for only about 13 percent of the population, immigrants now start more than a quarter of new businesses in this country. Fast-growing ones, too–more than 20 percent of the 2014 Inc. 500 CEOs are immigrants. Immigrant-owned businesses pay an estimated $126 billion in wages per year, employing 1 in 10 Americans who work for private companies. In 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $775 billion in sales. If immigrant America were a stock, you’d be an idiot not to buy it.
Bluestein chronicles the experience of one Latina, Ruby Polanco, a Honduras-born entrepreneur who was brought to America as a child:
With her mother and two brothers, Polanco lived in Los Angeles, in a 300-square-foot apartment with no kitchen. School, she says, was “very hard on kids who didn’t speak English.” And the convoluted process of obtaining green cards–particularly challenging for immigrants from Central America–added to the family’s sense of insecurity. At 17, Polanco was a pregnant high school dropout, married to a man she’d divorce a year later.
Finally getting her green card, Polanco says, “changed my mentality. In my own crazy mind, I decided I wanted to make myself American, to make this country my country. After many years, I had the right to stay here.” Polanco got a job as a cashier at McDonald’s and eventually became a manager. After getting her GED, she attended community college, and later got a bachelor’s degree in business management.
Since founding a school for makeup artists in 2006, Polanco now has four locations in the Los Angeles area, revenue of more than $2 million, and about 45 employees. Polanco has also become a visible entrepreneurial presence in L.A.’s Hispanic community. “You give a Hispanic woman $5 and she’ll turn it into a million,” she says, “but not a lot of people are investing money and time on these young women.” Polanco hopes she can help other Hispanic women overcome an “illegal” mindset. “Even legal people here think very illegal,” she says. “They think they can only do business in their corner.”
Some cities like Boston are already providing “accelerator” programs to help international entrepreneurs establish themselves in the U.S.