During the August recess, Members of Congress have been meeting with constituents in their home states and districts. During this time, many have likely dined at an immigrant-owned restaurant or used the services of an immigrant-owned business within their home state. The fact is, immigrant businesses are important in many communities across America. Immigrant entrepreneurs bring in additional revenue, create new jobs, and boost local and state economies. Indeed, immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators continue to make contributions throughout the U.S.
Within the border states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, for example, immigrant business owners and innovators contribute in many ways. Immigrant-owned “mom-and pop” small businesses are found throughout cities in New Mexico, such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque, where they cater to the culinary, retail, and service needs of a diverse immigrant community. In Arizona, nearly one in five business owners were immigrants in 2010. The Phoenix metropolitan area in fact has a relatively high level of immigrant business ownership (28 percent) relative to the foreign-born share of its population.
In Texas, around one in four business owners were immigrants in 2010, and from 2007 to 2010, immigrants in Texas founded almost one-third of all new businesses in the state. Texas is also home to many successful companies with at least one founder who was an immigrant or child of an immigrant, including Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T and RadioShack. Such companies employ hundreds of thousands of people and bring in billions of dollars in revenue each year. Of the Texas metro areas that are among the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas by total population, the foreign-born share of business owners was 31 percent in Houston, 25 percent in Dallas, and 25 percent in San Antonio.
In the northeast, in states such as New York and Pennsylvania, immigrant entrepreneurs help grow local economies. Almost one-third of all business owners in New York in 2010 were immigrants and new immigrant business owners had total business revenue of almost $13 billion (22.6 percent of all business income in the state). In the New York City metropolitan area, the 2010 immigrant share of business owners was 36 percent. New York’s neighbor to the south, Pennsylvania, is home to many successful companies with at least one founder who was an immigrant or child of an immigrant, including Fortune 500 companies such as U.S. Steel and Cigna Health. These companies and others employ almost a quarter of a million people in Pennsylvania and bring in over a hundred billion in revenue each year.
Without a doubt, local leaders in states and cities around the country value immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators and their important role in helping to stabilize, revitalize, and strengthen local communities. Welcoming and encouraging immigrants is the right thing to do and it is an important component of a state’s broader strategy for growing their economy and strengthening their community. Members of Congress, therefore, must return to Washington after the August recess with a renewed sense of purpose for immigration reform. They must remember that local communities in their home states and districts – the places where immigration processes and policy play out on a daily basis – already value, welcome, and encourage the contributions from immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs. With such broad support for reform, Congress must not let this opportunity pass – an opportunity to come together and enact legislation that will strengthen the economy at all levels.
Photo Courtesy of SuperTrixieCat.