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.
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