Close to Home: A nation of immigrant entrepreneurs

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On a recent Saturday, I attended a touching party. A young woman was leaving in two days to pursue her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at an out-of-state university.

Her parents, one from Mexico and the other from Puerto Rico, were proud. I’m sure when they moved to Sonoma County, they wanted the best for the two children they had here but hadn’t imagined that one day they might be calling their younger daughter “doctor.”

Their story isn’t unusual.

Immigrants aren’t only the backbone of this country, they drive our economy and are more entrepreneurial than native-born citizens.

In 2015, the Atlantic published an article titled “why American cities are fighting to attract immigrants.”

“From 2006 to 2012,” the article said, “more than two-fifths of the start-up tech companies in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder.” It also said that “immigration, on the whole, bolsters the workforce and adds to the nation’s overall economic activity.”

In 2016, the Harvard Review noted that immigrants constitute 15 percent of the U.S. workforce, but they account for around a quarter of U.S. entrepreneurs.

While President Donald Trump may not like immigrants from Africa, the Houston Chronicle reported in January that Nigerians are the most educated segment of the population in the United States.

Finally, a 2016 census report said the “number of U.S. businesses owned by Hispanics grew by more than 1 million firms, or 46.3 percent, from 2.3 million to 3.3 million, from 2007 to 2012. In contrast, the total number of all U.S. firms increased 2.0 percent during the same period, from 27.1 million to 27.6 million.”

The same report noted that 35.7 percent of Hispanic business owners have a bachelor’s degree, and 20.2 percent of Hispanic business owners work 60 or more hours a week managing or working in their business.

My own family, perhaps due to the Great Depression, weren’t as entrepreneurial. My four grandparents, who emigrated from Spain, worked in fish canneries in Monterey and picked fruit and vegetables up and down the state.

My aunts and uncles had better jobs, and my mother started her own business, a beauty salon, just two years after graduating from cosmetology school.

Some of my cousins and I graduated from college and, perhaps following in my mother’s footsteps, I eventually started my own business.

Today’s immigrants, including adults crossing our country’s southern border, are far more entrepreneurial, and their children pursue college degrees in greater numbers.

I don’t understand the reluctance of our president, and his followers, to embrace today’s immigrants. They not only enrich our country, they keep the wheels of our economy turning.

Frances Caballo is the owner of a social media marketing business in Santa Rosa.

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