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The U.S. needs to ease restrictions on immigrants who plan to open businesses, and create a separate visa for potential entrepreneurs, according to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

Current immigration laws make it difficult for people to enter the U.S. and start a business, according to the report, released today by the Chamber and the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council. Expansion of the visa program would also aid companies’ access to foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities, helping economic growth, the authors of the report said. 

Immigrant entrepreneurs established 18 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, according to a June 2011 report from the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group of business leaders and mayors that advocates for immigration reform. Those companies, such as Google Inc. (GOOG), Big Lots Inc. (BIG) and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) generated $1.7 trillion in revenue in 2010 and had 3.7 million employees worldwide, the report said. 

“They are going to contribute and succeed somewhere -- why shouldn’t it be the United States?” Thomas Donohue, the Chamber’s chief executive officer, said in a Jan. 12 speech in Washington. 

Immigrants are more likely than native-born U.S. workers to start their own business or be self-employed, according to the Chamber of Commerce study. Of naturalized citizens, 5.1 percent were employed by their own business, compared with 3.7 percent of the native-born citizens, the report found. In Massachusetts, immigrants were 14 percent of the population in 2008 and started 61 percent of the businesses, the report found. 

Legislation Stymied 

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Bloomberg | 01/25/12

WASHINGTON, D.C— Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs and strengthen the economy, and the U.S. should tailor immigration laws and policies to encourage the best and the brightest to create businesses on U.S. soil, according to a new joint report issued today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Immigration Policy Center (IPC).

The report, Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs and Strengthening the U.S. Economy examines immigrant entrepreneurship in many different sectors, including neighborhood, growth, transnational, and science and technology firms, and demonstrates how these immigrant businesses create jobs for U.S. workers and contribute to America’s economic growth.

“Immigrant-owned growth businesses are hugely important to strengthening local economies, as well as providing jobs essential to economic recovery,” said report author Marcia Drew Hohn, director of the Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. “The U.S. Small Business Association estimates that small businesses have generated 64% of the net new jobs over the past 15 years and credits immigrant businesses with a significant contribution to this job growth.”

“Regardless of one’s school of thought, there is very little disagreement among researchers and experts that immigrant entrepreneurship is a powerful and valuable asset to America’s economic future,” said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council. “There has been a lot of attention paid to the high tech, highly educated immigrant entrepreneur, this report reinforces that it is less about your degree or the product you produce, and far more about recognizing a need in your community and having the skills and commitment to bring a dream to life.”

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Journal News Service | 01/25/12

Unauthorized immigrants made up 5.2% (about 8 million) of the U.S. workforce in 2010, according to a report from the American Immigration Council's Strength In Diversity report.

The same year, the American Immigration Council and American Progress estimated that deporting all unauthorized immigrants from the country and sealing the borders to future unauthorized immigration would "reduce the U.S. GDP by 1.46% annually—or $2.6 trillion in lost GDP over 10 years." 

In January, the American Immigration Council compiled information about the full political and economic power of "immigrants, Latinos, and Asians" for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

At least 15 states, including California, Texas, and New York, stand to lose billions if illegal immigrants are deported. The number of illegal immigrants living in each state has been obtained from the 2008 report released by Pew Hispanic Center.

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Business Insider | 01/23/12

During its nine-year history, issues have arisen with respect to restrictions on counsel by the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration agencies. Tuesday, in response to calls from the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued immediate, comprehensive changes to their policies to ensure an appropriate role for attorneys in the immigration process.

Many non-citizens are forced to navigate the immigration process without representation because they cannot afford an attorney.  But even persons who can afford one, or are represented by a pro bono attorney, have at times faced severe restrictions on their representation.  This is particularly troublesome given the significant power USCIS officers wield.  For example, they decide whether a non-citizen is entitled to stay in the U.S. or not.  The assistance of an attorney well versed in the complexities of immigration law can help safeguard the rights of these non-citizens and ensure just outcomes.  

By revising its guidance, USCIS has responded to some of the most serious access concerns.  For example, the new guidance provides that an attorney generally may sit next to his or her client during an interview, may be permitted to submit relevant documents to the USCIS officer, and may raise objections to inappropriate lines of questioning. 

The American Immigration Council looks forward to commenting on the new guidance and working with the agency to make sure it is followed.  The other immigration agencies – Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – should take note of USCIS’s commitment to improving access to counsel and take similar steps to recognize the meaningful role that attorneys play in protecting noncitizens’ rights. 

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Hispanically Speaking News | 01/22/12

Manny and Vicky Gonzalez are reminded each day that it isn’t only Spanish speaking people who stop to purchase Mexican (“tortas”) sandwiches at their two restaurants in Minneapolis.

“A lot of Minnesotans have learned that there is more to Mexican food than tacos,” said Manny, who with his wife started Manny’s Tortas along Lake Street in 1999.

In the past century, long-time Minnesota families learned there was more to Italian cuisine than pizza, and that Chinese food is regional and far more complex than chow mein. Now, Minnesotans with newly acquired tastes for the Gonzalez’s Mexican sandwiches drive from throughout the Twin Cities metro area to their two shops in Minneapolis’ Mercado Central and Midtown Global Market.    

U.S. Census data from 2010, anecdotal evidence about immigrant entrepreneurship, and a recently released study from the Immigration Policy Center show Minnesota is rapidly changing. Days of sputtering along and resisting change should be behind us. New Minnesotans are changing the demographic portrait of the state and communities. New ethnic entrepreneurs are changing the mix of businesses and the products and services being offered in commerce.

Hector Garcia, executive director of the Chicano Latino Affairs Council (CLAC), refers to the benefits of this commerce as “cultural complementarities.” The long established Minnesota society learns from immigrants and refugees entering the state in search of opportunities, he said, and new arrivals learn from established businesses, groups and people.

What’s more, new Census data show that immigrants now comprise 8.3 percent of the Minnesota workforce. From them, Garcia said, existing Minnesota businesses and its large corporations gain knowledge for opening even more trade and business relationships with countries and businesses abroad, paving the way for even more economic activity.

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Twin Cities Daily Planet | 01/18/12

More than one in four California residents are foreign born, but almost 46 percent of them — 4.6 million people — are naturalized citizens eligible to vote, according to a new report by the Immigration Policy Center.

There were almost 10.2 million immigrants in the state in 2010, U.S. Census data show. That’s 27.2 percent of the population.

Immigrants comprise more than a third of the California labor force, figuring prominently in economics sector such as agriculture, manufacturing and services.

They pay roughly $30 billion in federal taxes, $5.2 billion in state income taxes and $4.6 billion in sales taxes each year, according to state-specific fact sheets compiled by the pro-immigration policy center from a variety of studies in recent years.

Unauthorized immigrants in California paid $2.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 and most native-born Californians have experienced wage gains from the presence of immigrants in the state’s labor market, research compiled by center show.

Click here for more numbers on immigrant contributions to the California economy at the Immigration Policy Center website.

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Sacramento Business Journal | 01/17/12

 

Steve Hale of Hale Building Company in Anniston only wants to hire legal workers. He wants to comply with all laws.

But to him, the state is just not making it very easy.

Hale Building Company was one of many Alabama businesses with government contracts that were required to enroll with the E-Verify system this month to comply with the state’s immigration law. E-Verify is a free Internet service offered by the federal government that lets companies check the working status of employees by comparing a worker’s name to official records.

Hale said the process to enroll in the system, and just complying with the immigration law in general, has been difficult.

“There is a good bit of time needed to switch over to it,” Hale said. “And there is just a lot of confusion about what is to be done. But we’ve made a very valiant effort to conform to the new law.”

Hale said he does not agree with the way the state has implemented the law, which was passed last year and considered the toughest immigration legislation in the country.

“It seems like politicians could have done a better job to phase things in and explain them,” Hale said. “And we’re being asked to be the police of the industry, but we’re not in business to track these people down.”

Lance Taylor, president of the Taylor Corporation in Oxford, whose company also had to enroll in E-Verify this month, agreed with Hale that much of the immigration law is confusing.

“Every time they come out with something different, the lawyers try to keep us abreast with what we can and can’t do,” Taylor said. “There was just so much confusion when it first came out.”

John Bryan, vice president of the Sunny King Auto Group in Anniston, said his company also enrolled with E-Verify this month as a precautionary measure.

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The Anniston, AL Star | 01/14/12

The Obama administration has unveiled several key decisions aimed at bolstering ties to the immigration reform community as the president’s campaign has stepped up efforts to woo Latino voters ahead of the 2012 elections. 

The moves come as Republican presidential contenders have begun staking out positions on immigration, making it a focal point of political attacks leading into the South Carolina and Florida primary elections.

Latino and immigration reform groups have heavily criticized President Obama for not doing enough to overhaul the country’s immigration system to provide a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

The groups, on and off Capitol Hill, have stressed that the same Latino voters who helped bring Obama into office in 2008 are not a sure bet for him in 2012. As Republicans begin to attack the president on his immigration record, Obama will be forced to highlight the steps he’s taken to improve the immigration process. 

In a strong nod to Latino groups this week, Obama appointed Cecilia Munoz, the former senior vice president at the National Council of La Raza — the largest U.S. Latino civil rights and advocacy group — to be the director of the Domestic Policy Council where she’ll help shape the president’s domestic policy on immigration, education, health care and energy issues.

And last week, the administration proposed a long-awaited and greatly sought rule change that would fast track certain visa applications, lessening the time U.S. citizens are separated from their families who are required to remain outside the country while their immigrant visas are being considered.

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The Hill | 01/14/12

On Thursday, the research and data-gathering Immigration Policy Center released an extensive report detailing the vast contributions of immigrants to the U.S. The enlightening report titled “Strength in Diversity” breaks down by each state the information gathered and also makes important nationwide conclusions.

Nationally, the IPC estimates that 12.5 percent of U.S.-Americans are immigrants, rising steadily from 7.9 percent in 1990. In total, there are over 40 million immigrants in the U.S. today. Former Mexicans make up the largest segment of this country’s immigrant population at nearly 30 percent. The vast majority of U.S. immigrants are authorized residents, with just 28 percent undocumented. And the report estimates that at least 4.5 million native born U.S. citizen minors in this country have at least one undocumented parent. 

In addition, the statistics gathered by the IPC demonstrate the tremendous economic and political contributions made by immigrants to this country. Ten percent of all registered voters in the U.S. are naturalized immigrants or the U.S. citizen children of immigrants. More than 15 percent of all U.S. workers are foreign born, including 40 percent of our nation’s farming, fishing and forestry work force. And households headed by undocumented immigrants annually pay $11.2 billion in state and federal taxes. The IPC concludes that if the nation’s undocumented population were to be completely expelled, the U.S. would lose $551.6 billion in economic activity, $245 billion in gross domestic product and 2.8 million jobs.

In Arizona, specifically, the IPC estimates that 13.4 percent of the state’s population or 856,663 state residents are immigrants. This is up from 7.6 percent in 1990.

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Tucson Examiner | 01/13/12

The POLITICO article “Obama: We Can’t Wait on Immigration” (Jan. 6) suggests that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announcement of streamlined processing for certain immigration waivers is part of a “war on GOP members of Congress.”

This is an unfortunate characterization of a long-overdue regulatory change. It is designed to correct a decade-long problem that has unnecessarily separated families and caused undue hardship to thousands of U.S. citizens and their loved ones.

The proposed rule would permit “in-country processing” of family unity waivers. This changes regulations that now require applicants to leave the country before they can apply for a waiver.

The current system has become increasingly burdensome, because of processing backlogs, uncertainty of outcomes and violence in key U.S. consulates, such as the one in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It creates unnecessary hardship for applicants who are eligible to receive a legal status but must first obtain a family unity waiver.

This waiver can now only be obtained abroad. But leaving the U.S. may trigger a bar of three years to 10 years if the applicant has been unlawfully present.

Many applicants fear that they might be permanently separated from their families and so never apply to become lawful permanent residents. Though applicants would still have to depart the U.S., under the new proposal they would do so knowing that their waiver had been provisionally approved — reducing waiting time and hardship for all.

All members of Congress — Republican or Democrat — have likely seen the compelling cases raised by the three year-to-10 year bar problem. Resolving it is not a partisan issue. It is instead an example of immigration service acting responsibly to address a problem of its own regulatory making.

Mary Giovagnoli

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Politico | 01/06/12