More Immigrants Means More Jobs

New America Media, Commentary, David Alff Posted: Apr 16, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: Often lost in the bitter immigration debate is the role of immigrants as a whole in developing the U.S. economy. Here’s a reminder. David Alff is an outreach associate with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that connects immigrants with economic opportunities in the region. IMMIGRATION MATTERS regularly features the views of the nation's leading immigrant rights advocates.

PHILADELPHIA -- Many Americans believe that immigrants take jobs from native-born U.S. citizens. These people might be surprised to know that immigrant entrepreneurs frequently start companies which actually create jobs for native and foreign-born workers.

In the midst of a national debate over immigration, few U.S. citizens recognize the reality that immigrant-founded companies currently employ millions of Americans, and that many of us owe our jobs to those born in other countries.

Consider the example of Raza Bokhari, a Pakistani immigrant whose medical diagnostics firm, Lakewood Pathology Associates, is among the fastest growing companies in the region. Based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania Lakewood Pathology currently employs a staff of 80, and has plans to hire an additional 120 workers over the next three years in order to expand its services nationwide. Last December, Dr. Bokhari donated $1 million to Temple University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute so that future entrepreneurs have guidance to develop new businesses.

Lakewood Pathology Associates is not a unique example. A study recently conducted by Duke University found that one quarter of technology companies that were started in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 had at least one immigrant founder. These companies hired 450,000 workers and produced $52 billion in sales. In Silicon Valley, the epicenter of America’s recent tech boom, over half of start-ups were founded by immigrants.

The Duke study indicates that immigrants have been instrumental in launching companies which produce job opportunities for both native and foreign-born Americans. Despite all this, Philadelphia has sometimes been reluctant to integrate foreigners into its economy. In 1751, Benjamin Franklin described German immigrants as “boors,” who “will never adopt our language or customs.” Brilliant as he was, Franklin could not look far enough into the future to see the positive contributions immigrants would make to Philadelphia.

Franklin probably wasn’t picturing German immigrants like Otto Röhm, a chemist who co-founded the Rohm and Haas Company in 1909 on Front Street. Today, Rohm and Haas is a Fortune 500 chemical manufacturer and one of Philadelphia’s leading employers.

From Otto Röhm to Raza Bokhari, immigrant business owners have been an important part of Philadelphia’s history. Just think what immigrant-founded companies can do for themselves and others in the next hundred years if given the chance. The city’s prosperity and your future paycheck may depend on it.

See More Immigration Matters

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User Comments

Nancy Kuznetsov on May 07, 2007 at 04:36:21 said:

I do not see Immigrants legal or otherwise as a factor in why American Black have a high unemployment rate. The economy is better off as a result of the influx of workers. There is not a finite amount of jobs, this is America competition fuels growth and expansion. Other issues may be at play here in the Black community with regard to unemployment. There is not a finite amount of jobs available, and further American Blacks have an educational, cultural, and language edge on first generation immigrants. There is always the option of starting a business if you don't have a job and growing the economy. When there is a desire to work coupled with creativity there is always a way to earn a living in America.

Will on Apr 30, 2007 at 21:49:21 said:

I just finished reading an article on this site that stated unemployment for blacks in America is well over 15%. If this is true, then can someone justify the reason why we have 15 million illegal immigrants in this country? I agree with this article that immigrants do create jobs but they also take a lot of job slots too. When one considers the sheer numbers of illegals in this country it amazes me that nobody recognizes the fact that the jobs they have are being taken away from others - namely the millions of blacks that have no jobs.

Mary on Apr 16, 2007 at 20:49:35 said:

I've noticed that many Hispanic businesses only create jobs for other Hispanics, usually illegal. For example, the massive number of children born to illegal immigrants in California. Hence school districts are building more and more and more schools -- using Hispanic construction labor, probably much of it illegal. Not really a benefit to the native-born population; our birthrates are going down and many native-born people are moving to other states to get away from the chaos caused by the illegals. The same could be said for the Hispanic grocery stores, restaurants and Hispanic calling card centers, etc., which would not employ a non-Spanish-speaking person. I really don't see how the native-born benefits much from massive illegal immigration. I'm also pretty offended by the deliberate confusing of illegal immigrants with legal immigrants. The disctinction may not matter to you, but it greatly matters to me and millions of other Americans.




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