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What Is An Immigrant?

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Today I welcome a Nai Zhao, the Founder of Charcuaterie Me who has a fascinating family story. A story that is truly how this country was built. A story about entrepreneurial immigrants.

What is an immigrant, why are they important, and why should an entrepreneur care?

An immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. Immigration is the international movement of people to a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle as permanent residents or naturalized citizens.

About 3.4 percent of the global population—258 million of the world’s 7.7 billion people—are international migrants.

Almost three-quarters of immigrants are from less-developed countries, and slightly more migrants move between poor countries than from a low-income country to a wealthy one.

Now there is a lot of talk out there whether or not America was founded by immigrants. I am not going to get into that, but I will say this: America has more immigrants right now than any other country.

Before 1965, Germany sent more immigrants to America than anyone else; after 1965, Mexico did, but it was not because of World War II. Each country was given a certain quota of immigrants who were allowed to come to the United States each year, based on who’d been in the country in 1890.

Combined with existing laws that prevented any Asian Americans from coming into the country, the laws of the 1920s basically froze the demographics of the immigrant population in place until 1965.

As more Americans are leaving Middle America than moving there (with the exception of North Dakota), immigrants are forestalling Middle America’s population decline, per VOX.com.

A Chicago Council study in 2014 found four metro areas (including Davenport, Iowa, on the Illinois border, and Duluth in eastern Minnesota) that grew between 2000 and 2010 solely because of the immigrant population, and another five where immigrants made up more than 50 percent of the metro area’s total growth over that time.

And that is why an entrepreneur should care.

Because of World War II there was a huge labor shortage, and the United States started to encourage seasonal labor from Mexico.

Some 2 million Mexican immigrants came to America under the program from 1942 to 1964. Most of them worked directly with DDT - you know, the insecticide that is now know to be carcinogenic and toxic to humans. Carcinogenic means it has the potential to cause cancer.

The program was set up to prevent migrants from becoming immigrants, requiring the Mexican workers to send 10% of their check back to Mexico. Don’t even get me started about the 120,000 Japanese Americans that were forced into internment campus in the Western United State.

According to the Bush Center, Immigration fuels the economy. When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP. Their incomes rise, but so do those of natives.

It’s a phenomenon dubbed the “immigration surplus,” and while a small share of additional GDP accrues to natives — typically 0.2 to 0.4 percent — it still amounts to $36 to $72 billion per year. GDP is Gross Domestic Product - it is the total monetary or market value of all the finished good and services produced within a country’s board in a specific time frame.

In addition to the immigration surplus, immigrants grease the wheels of the labor market by flowing into industries and areas where there is a relative need for workers — where bottlenecks or shortages might otherwise dampen growth.

Between 2010 and 2020, the U.S. saw its slowest population growth of any decade since the 1930s. In recent years, fewer children have been born. Immigration levels have also decreased, according to FWD.us.

Future immigration is needed to increase the U.S. population size overall, but also to maintain a working-age ratio for a growing the U.S. economy.

According to FWD.us projections, the U.S. should double immigration levels to remain globally competitive with other economies and keep fiscal programs like Social Security strong. And that is why the entrepreneur should care.

Immigrants are highly entrepreneurial, launching new companies at twice the rate of native-born Americans and creating large numbers of jobs. All of this increases employment opportunities for native-born American workers, boosts wages and strengthens the middle class, according to FWD.us.

Immigrants added $2 trillion to the U.S. GDP in 2016 and $458.7 billion to state, local, and federal taxes in 2018. Yeah, contrary to popular belief, immigrants actually pay taxes.

In 2018, after immigrants spent billions of dollars on state and local, and federal taxes, they were left with $1.2 trillion in spending power, which they used to purchase goods and services, stimulating local business activity.

Proposed cuts to our legal immigration system would have devastating effects on our economy, decreasing GDP by 2% over twenty years, shrinking growth by 12.5%, and cutting 4.6 million jobs.

Rust Belt states would be hit particularly hard, as they rely on immigration to stabilize their populations and revive their economies.

As I state often on this show: we our a globe of entrepreneurs. Our color does not define us. Our place of origin does not define us.

As Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.”

The American ideal is the American dream. A dream that I too have. And that dream is bright and colorful. Because in that dream, I see all of you. I see a world of global entrepreneurs.

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