As a second generation immigration lawyer, I spent three decades helping people navigate the US immigration system. At my company in Silicon Valley, we support tech entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for business opportunities that only the United States can offer.
My clients are innovators with big American dreams, founders of companies that will create thousands of new jobs – jobs that our economy desperately needs.
President Trump announces his intention suspend all immigration to the United States in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and new restrictions may come on any day. A serious restriction on immigration would be a serious mistake.
America’s success is largely due to the ingenuity of global transplants. There is no shortage of brilliant scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs in the world. For decades, they sought to convey their ideas and work to the United States. We are shortsighted to reject them.
We are in a more serious economic crisis than any of us has ever experienced. At the time of writing over 40 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits, We can create jobs through innovation, and immigration stimulates innovation. According to U.S. Treasury DepartmentImmigrants are much more likely than non-immigrants to open a business. Immigrants set up 25% of venture capital-backed U.S. companies which became public between 1990 and 2005, and 33% of those that became public since 2006. More than half of American “unicorns” – those valued at $ 1 billion or more – reasonable immigrant,
Contrary to Trump’s claims, America is already overly hostile to those who are trying to take root here and live their American dream. Just one example: although many of the promising minds of the world come to the United States to earn a degree, they in most cases have no way to stay here after graduation. Students who seek to start a business here after graduation are forced to leave our shores instead and start all over again.
The American dream cannot be achieved even for the most stellar innovators. Many of the best and brightest people in the world, after hitting a brick wall with immigration to the United States, will be forced to leave for other countries. They unveil their companies there, providing new jobs and tax revenues in their second-choice homes. Meanwhile, the United States continues to bleed jobs, seeing no end to either the pandemic or its cascading economic consequences.
Alternatively, for people who are hoping to enter the United States, having already embarked on their careers, the coveted H-1B visa is often the only option. Available only to those with special skills and a job offer from an American employer, H-1B visas can be a springboard for ambitious innovators who want to professionally establish themselves in the United States. But getting one of these visas requires a literal win in the lottery and good luck few selected must wait months to really come here, checking the patience of the employers on whom their visas depend.
Ambitious entrepreneurs can go anywhere in the world. Many countries are struggling to welcome them, immigration benefits and financial grants attract novice founders. But even though we are trying to exclude them, the best entrepreneurs in the world are still struggling to come here – for a good reason. There are silicon alleys and silicon beaches elsewhere, but none of them have the same concentration capital, mentors and skilled professionals. For people who want to found unicorn companies that are truly about to change the world, there are the right ingredients in the United States to scale their ideas, including the fast-growing pool of job seekers seeking new positions. In addition, immigrant founders are generally more open to hiring a diverse workforce, thereby increasing efforts to recruit and retain BIPOC employees on a scale.
Perhaps in a different climate, we could afford to raise our heads to innovations from abroad. But no more. To truly protect our country, revitalize our economy and create opportunities for all, it would be wise to expand our borders, and not slam them.