A week in which President Donald Trump ended protections for immigrants from El Salvador and rejected a bipartisan framework to restore Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) culminated in the president displaying shocking ignorance about why immigrants from certain countries seek a new life in the United States.
The answer to your question, Mr. President, is simple: Many of them come to the United States to realize their entrepreneurial dreams, which is why we must restore DACA.
A report from the New American Economy Research Fund found immigrants owned nearly three million American businesses in 2014, employed almost six million people and produced more than $65 billion worth of income.
What’s more, immigrants from outside Europe had high rates of entrepreneurship or were self-employed in 2014: 19.1 percent of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa were entrepreneurs, while 11.1 percent of Hispanic immigrants and 10.6 percent of Asian immigrants were self employed.
As lawmakers continue to negotiate the renewal of DACA and other immigration policies, it is essential that they recognize the importance of sensible immigration policies to our nation’s small business community and our economy as a whole.
After all, immigrants like the Dreamers who were protected under DACA are the lifeblood of entrepreneurship — they work for small businesses, start small businesses and bolster our economic success.
Small business owners like Harland Henry are a particularly strong example of the contribution immigrants make to this country. Harland came to the United States from Antigua in 1981. He spent 25 years advocating for small businesses through jobs with federal, state and local governments before opening his own small business in 2009.
Harland, who is now a member of Small Business Majority’s Small Business Council, is passionate about small firms in part because he feels they give immigrants an opportunity to pay back a country that opened its doors to them.
Sadly, President Trump clearly does not yet recognize the critical role immigrants play in the United States: They are twice as likely to start a business as the average person, making them an essential component of job creation.
Ineffective immigration laws also impact entrepreneurs with existing businesses. Small-business owners increasingly say they are struggling to find qualified workers and need a larger applicant pool to meet their workforce needs.
What’s more, scientific polling conducted on behalf of Small Business Majority found small businesses overwhelmingly believe comprehensive immigration reform is good for America and good for business because it establishes a qualified, trained and stable workforce.
Additionally, the vast majority of our nation’s small employers said that the best immigration solution is to create a path toward citizenship accompanied by effective enforcement.
Comprehensive immigration reform is a goal long supported by small-business owners across the political spectrum, but its enactment is stifled time and again by our toxic partisan climate.
President Trump’s decision to end DACA was a step backward that will create obstacles for small businesses and will prevent many immigrants from pursuing the American Dream and launching their own businesses.
Congressional lawmakers must display the courage President Trump would not and take legislative action to restore DACA, making it easier for small-business owners to succeed through meaningful immigration policies that ensure a stable long-term, high-skilled workforce will be available.
John Arensmeyer is the founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, and advocacy group founded and run by small-business owners.