Nov 28, 2011 12:25 AM GMT
If we want to create jobs in America, we must welcome foreign-born innovators. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of immigrant entrepreneurs yearning to breathe free": This is the message we need Lady Liberty to shine forth into the world.
Yet Ellis Island has put up a velvet rope line. To vital job generators, we are saying, "There's no room for you."
Inviting immigrants in to create jobs may seem counterintuitive, but the facts are clear. Immigrant-led innovation is key to creating U.S. jobs. According to statistics from Partnership for a New American Economy, 40% of Fortune 500 companies were created by immigrants or their children. Further, between 1995 and 2005, 25% of high-tech startups in the United States had at least one immigrant founder, and these companies have created more than 450,000 jobs.
Take Google. Russian-born Sergey Brin, together with U.S.-born Larry Page, built a search engine business that today employs 31,300 people. French-born eBay founder Pierre Omidyar cultivated 17,700 jobs, and Taiwanese-born Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, paved the way for today's 13,700 Yahoo employees.
Current U.S. visa policy, however, is thwarting would-be job generators from pursuing their aims within our borders. We cannot afford to expel these vital individuals.
Consider the case of Amit Aharoni, a Stanford Business School graduate. Despite having raised $1.65 million in venture capital and created nine jobs at his San Francisco startup CruiseWise.com, Aharoni, an Israeli national, received a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denying his request for a visa. Not only that, the letter informed Aharoni that he had to leave the country immediately.
Relocating to Canada in October, Aharoni continued to conduct business meetings using Skype. Only after ABC "World News" made public his predicament did the U.S. agency reconsider and approve his visa petition.
This is good news for Aharoni and CruiseWise.com, but we must wonder: Whom else are we sending away?
"We want your talent" should be our slogan. Come and build your businesses in the United States. Don't move to Bangalore or Shanghai or Dubai or Moscow. Don't go to Istanbul or Shenzhen or Sao Paulo when we need you in the emerging markets of our own country in places like Detroit, Buffalo and Cleveland. The point is that immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs, and our top priority should be to foster innovation ecosystems at home.