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Immigrant Entrepreneurship: Event Recap on Economic Potential and Obstacles to Success

Immigrant entrepreneurs have long been a part of communities around the United States. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s recent report, Immigration Entrepreneurship: Economic Potential and Obstacles to Success assesses who these immigrants are, what kinds of businesses they invest in, why they chose this path, and what obstacles they face to entrepreneurship. To launch this report, the Managing Director of Immigration and Cross-Border Policy Theresa Cardinal Brown moderated an expert panel discussion on the report findings. The panelists included: Cris Ramón, global and U.S. immigration policy researcher and analyst; Christina da Silva, welcoming communities and immigrant affairs officer at the City of Dallas; Dane Stangler, director of strategic initiatives at BPC; and Adrian Bota, co-founder and CEO of Origin Milk and an immigrant entrepreneur. Below are key takeaways from the webinar.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs play a significant role in the U.S. economy

In the U.S., entrepreneurship is responsible for most net new job growth. Out of 100,000 adults, 580 immigrants are entrepreneurs compared to 320 out of every 100,000 native-born Americans. Without immigrant entrepreneurship, as Dane Stangler pointed out, declines in job growth from COVID-19 would have been substantially worse. Understanding what drives immigrants to start their own businesses as well as the obstacles they face in doing so is imperative to understanding how to support local and national economic needs.

The need for integration of economic growth into the U.S. immigration system

The panelists discussed the need for national legislation that supports immigrant entrepreneurship. Cris Ramón highlighted one of the main recommendations of the report: an entrepreneurship visa that would allow entrepreneurs to move to or remain in the U.S. This would more clearly align U.S. immigration policy with economic growth measures. Dane Stangler noted that many other developed countries maintain such visas. Adrian Bota explained that immigrant entrepreneurs often come from countries that do not value innovation. In the U.S. they can address unmet needs, engineer new ideas and systems, and add value to their communities, but there needs to be a pathway for them to do so.

The role of local municipalities

Christina da Silva offered the local perspective of how the city of Dallas has worked to uplift immigrant entrepreneurs and maximize their success, underscoring the need for local engagement. By creating accessible and easy to navigate information, leveraging local connections and institutions, and investing in data collection, the city has compiled a one-stop shop for resources and guidance for immigrant entrepreneurs, allowing these entrepreneurs to address all of their needs in fewer visits.

The report and webinar provide additional information on the state of U.S. immigrant entrepreneurship and what data is still needed in order to maximize immigrant entrepreneurs’ economic potential. View the full webinar here.

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