Let’s be clear: Donald Trump’s chaotic effort to impose a 90-day ban on migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries is not primarily an economics story. It’s a story about American values.
And no one exemplifies American values more than the hard-working immigrant. For the record, Middle Eastern immigrants have some of the highest rates of self-employment of any group, according to a 2010 study. Self-employment is a proxy economists use for entrepreneurship.
These tend to be extremely small-scale businesses, which migrants often start because they have few other options, often due to language limitations and other factors.
But immigrants also are at the core of some of America’s most wildly successful businesses.
Google cofounder Sergey Brin, who made a point of showing up at some of the weekend protests against Trump’s executive order, counts himself among them. (Brin’s family came to the U.S. from Russia in 1979 to escape anti-Semitic discrimination.)
In fact, a recent study found that 51 percent of the U.S. startups worth upwards of $1 billion had immigrants as founders. By some measures at least one-quarter of the engineering and technology companies started in the U.S. between 2006 and 2012 had at least one immigrant who was a key founder. The density of immigrant entrepreneurs in the tech sector, as well as its immigrant-dense workforce, is one of the reasons why the pushback from technology companies has been relatively strong.
Immigrant entrepreneurs — whether it’s a newly arrived immigrant running a hot dog stand in New York or South African-born Elon Musk planning to ferry paying customers to Mars — clearly have a lot to offer the country. It would be a shame if the U.S. became less attractive to them.