When I think of the great entrepreneurial center of the United States for the last decade, my mind goes immediately to Silicon Valley. Essential to growth are new ideas and new companies paving the way forward and teaching us how to think outside the box, around the box, or whether or not there really is box.
One study conducted in 1999 (from the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies of San Diego) showed that foreign-owned firms accounted for 14% of the Silicon Valley’s total employment while US-Immigration.com reported that recent statistics document approximately 52% of the area’s startups have been founded by immigrants. Sure, startups don’t always go to great places, but keep in mind that Google, Yahoo, YouTube, PayPal, Chevrolet, and Levi Strauss & Co “ thought by many to be extremely “American institutions “ were all founded or co-founded by immigrants. This country was and continues to be built and rebuilt by immigrants on more levels than most people consider.
As immigration becomes a hotter and more emotional debate, we run the risk of closing our minds and our borders to the very type of innovators that have helped make our country great. I hope that we never forget that some of America’s greatest visionaries and leaders have been immigrants and that we will keep our minds open to innovation in both our global and local communities.