Immigrant Entrepreneurship in America

Immigrant Entrepreneurship

By William Morgan

Due to the negative light that is casted on immigration in today’s society, immigrant success stories tend to get overlooked.

It is a fact that our nation was built with the strong hands and great minds of immigrants. Today, with the threat of closed borders being discussed, it is hard to imagine our society being able to thrive without the help of immigrants. Closed borders and higher restrictions on entries pose a negative effect our nation’s ability to innovate.

According to the text Global Migration, immigrants are more likely to start small-businesses than native-born citizens due to their extensive cross-cultural experiences. Examples from Google, Tesla, Red Bull and other large companies prove that bringing different cultural experiences to America can be pivotal for innovation and creation.

In 2011, immigrants accounted for 28 percent of small business owners while only accounting for 12.9 percent of overall population. (Global Migration)

Looking at it another way: for every 1,000 immigrants, approximately 1,200 jobs are created that go to U.S. citizen workers. (Global Migration)

Although immigrant entrepreneurship has helped to fuel the U.S. economy, it is important not to simply look at immigrants as feeders to our economic system.

Jennifer Bulcock, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Assistant Director of the Center on Immigration at Cabrini University, said, “I do think it’s important to focus less on the economic good that immigrants can do and more on their status as human beings. Talking about immigrants in terms of what they can do for us is the wrong way to think about the question of immigration.”

Still, immigrants’ economic contribution is an undeniable part of our nation’s history.

A local program in Philadelphia, Pa. helps plant a seed in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since it’s launch in 2016, PhillyiHub has cycled through eight cohorts of students that draw from immigrant backgrounds in the Philadelphia area.

Sue Ellen Zhang is one of the many individuals who has benefitted from the PhillyiHub experience.

“One of my biggest takeaways from going through the iHub program was learning how to go through a business through iterations, trying something and then going back to the drawing board and trying it again or in a different way.”

Zhang is an immigrant from Jamaica and came to the United States when she was five-years-old.

Since coming to the U.S., she has been working towards being a licensed therapist, as well as studying to become a lawyer. Zhang says she wants to focus on the intersection between mental health and law.

“For immigrant entrepreneurs- and entrepreneurs period- it’s important to focus on your mental health through entrepreneurship and seeking a support system around yourself because it can be a very isolating experience,” Zhang said.

More on Sue Ellen Zhang’s story can be found here.

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