Immigrant-Owned Businesses Greatly Contribute to U.S. Economy

Perhaps it’s not a well-known fact that two in five Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants. Most probably, the minority-owned small businesses—the majority that employee under 100 people—are often forgotten. In large part, this is due to the absence of basic data on the subject. However, a new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) finally quantifies the value of immigrant small businesses to the U.S. economy. Immigration Impact details a fascinating study on how immigrant-owned businesses greatly contribute to the U.S. economy.

Using data from the Survey of Business Owners and the American Community Survey, the report compiles a treasure trove of entrepreneurial information that highlights the enormous role which immigrants play as small business owners:

  • Immigrant small businesses employed 4.7 million people and had $776 billion in receipts in 2007, the last year for which data is available.
  • 18% of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants; higher than the immigrant share of the population (13%) or labor force (16%).
  • The small businesses most commonly owned by immigrants are restaurants, physician’s offices, real estate firms, grocery stores, and truck transportation services.
  • Immigrants comprise 65% of taxi service owners, 54% of dry cleaning and laundry service owners, 53% of gas station owners, and 49% of grocery store owners.
  • Between 1990 and 2010, immigrants accounted for 30% of the total increase in the number of small business owners in the United States.
  • Immigrants from Mexico account for 12% of immigrant small business owners, followed by immigrants from India, Korea, Cuba, China, and Vietnam.
  • Immigrants from the Middle East, Asia, and Southern Europe have the highest rates of small business ownership.
  • Immigrants who have been in the United States for more than 10 years are more than twice as likely to be small business owners as immigrants who have been in the country for 10 years or less.
  • 29% of immigrant small business owner are women. In comparison, 28% of U.S.-born small business owners are women.
  • Among the 25 largest metropolitan areas, immigrants comprise the largest share of small business owners in Miami (45%), followed by Los Angeles (44%), New York (36%), and San Francisco (35%).
  • Among the 50 states, immigrants comprise the largest share of small business owners in California (33%), followed by New York (29%), New Jersey (28%), Florida (26%), and Hawaii (23%).

Taken in sum, this data illustrates that immigrant entrepreneurs are an integral part of the U.S. economy.

As the FPI report puts it, “immigrant small business owners contribute to economic growth, to employment, and to producing the goods and services that support our standard of living.” This is a basic economic fact with broad political implications. The report observes that “understanding who the one million immigrant small business owners are…can only help as the country struggles to achieve a better set of immigration policies.” And a better set of policies would recognize that immigration fuels American entrepreneurship.

DHS Offers Path to Lawful Stay for Some DREAMers

WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”

DHS continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals.

Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:

  1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. Are not above the age of thirty.

Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.

While this guidance takes effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days. In the meantime, individuals seeking more information on the new policy should visit USCIS’s website (at, ICE’s website (, or DHS’s website (at Beginning Monday, individuals can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming process.

For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE’s ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.

For more information on the Administration policy reforms to date, please see this fact sheet.

Speaking from the Rose Garden, President Obama addressed a new policy from the Department of Homeland Security aimed at making the nation’s immigration policy more fair and more efficient — by removing the threat of deportation for young people who are low enforcement priorities.


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