Immigrants Are the Key to American Prosperity

Article originally published in the American City Business Journals on January 16, 2018

During his presidential campaign and throughout his first year in office, President Donald Trump has promised to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, further toughen the already onerous immigrant vetting process and significantly restrict the number of new immigrants to be admitted to the United States.

On Jan. 11, at a White House meeting with both Republican and Democrat legislators to discuss a bipartisan DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) deal along with broader immigration reform, it was reported by a number of attendees that Trump commented, “Why are we having all these people from sh-thole countries come here,” insulting the people of El Salvador, Haiti and the countries of Africa.

It was reported that Trump also said we should bring in more immigrants from Norway and Asia because they would help the economy.

Both comments conger up inappropriate discriminatory imagery. A White House staffer did not deny that Trump made these comments.

A day later, after a firestorm of criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, Trump denied making the disparaging comment. He tweeted, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”

Trump’s anti-immigrant comments further legitimize and give license to some Americans to openly express their prejudicial views of all immigrants, legal and undocumented. His comments also undermine the standing of the United States on the world stage, to our detriment. These comments, however, are what his political base wants to hear, however misguided.

Trump and those who support his policies are ignoring the economic importance of immigrants from all countries — those countries not so well off as well as those with a high standard of living and a highly educated population.

Some of the immigrants that Trump was referring to in his unfortunate comment harvest our vegetables, landscape our lawns, build our houses and are nannies for our children, all in the honorable pursuit of making a better life for themselves and their children, as many generations of immigrants have done before them. They buy goods and services, pay taxes, and have a positive impact on our economy.

Immigrants from less-developed countries populate many of our inner cities and bring needed economic life and vitality to areas long abandoned by factories and blue-collar residents. They start small businesses within their communities and create jobs.

Immigrants work long hours, are hungry for success and want to achieve the American dream. Many hope to send their children to college. They are no different than the millions of immigrants who have come before them and have built this county.

In an April 2013 article in Forbes magazine headlined “40% of the largest U.S. companies founded by immigrants or their children,” author Robert Lenzner writes that between 1995 and 2005, 25 percent of the high-tech companies founded during this period had at least one immigrant founder. These immigrant entrepreneurs did not all just come from countries like Norway. They also came from developing countries.

These entrepreneurs have created millions of jobs, improved our world competitiveness, changed how we live and put the U.S. on the forefront of the information technology industry. We should remember and appreciate their contributions every time we send or respond to an email or text message, access an app, take a photo with our cell phones, or use social media.

Andy Grove, founder and former chairman and CEO of Intel, was born in Hungary. Elon Musk, founder, chairman and CEO of Tesla, was born in South Africa. Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, was born in Taiwan.

Steve Jobs, founder and former chairman and CEO of Apple, was the son of Syrian immigrants, and Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, was born in Russia. The current CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, was born in India, as was Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai.

I could go on and on. These are just the leaders of companies within the high-tech information industry. I could have listed many more immigrants who are the founders or the leaders of other companies within other industries important to our economy and our standard of living.

An article by writer Adam Bluestein in the February 2015 issue of Inc. magazine headlined “The most entrepreneurial group in America wasn’t born in America” points out that immigrants start more than 25 percent of new businesses in this country, even though they represent only 13 percent of the population. These immigrants create jobs, a top priority on Trump’s agenda.

When asked about Trump’s comment, Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Speaker of the House of Representatives, said the remarks were “unfortunate” and “unhelpful.” He then spoke of how immigrants from Ireland, where his ancestors came from, were looked down upon at one time. Many job opportunities were closed to Irish immigrants.

Ryan proudly described how successive generations of his ancestors worked hard to make a better life for their families. Ryan said, “It is a beautiful story of America … and it is what makes this country so exceptional. It is a thing to celebrate. It is a big part of our strength, whether you are coming from Haiti … [or elsewhere].”

Presidents are supposed to bring people together, not tap latent prejudices that drive us apart. To the contrary of his signature campaign slogan, Trump is not making America great again by restricting immigrants from certain countries. He is doing just the opposite.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at

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