Immigrant innovators remain important to industry

To the editor:

Very shortly into our basic American studies, we learned the value of immigrants to the history of our country. Most of us can trace our citizenship here to ancestors who crossed an ocean from elsewhere — some more recently than others; some by freer choice than others. Let’s briefly survey how America continues to benefit from immigrants.

Immigrant entrepreneurs are vital to our economy, especially in technology. Tech companies founded by immigrants employed more than 500,000 workers in 2012, generating about $70 billion in sales. Another survey revealed some 44 immigrant-founded billion-dollar start-up companies, here, providing an average 760 jobs each. Not long ago, notably, about 15 percent of patent applications were each traceable to at least one immigrant.

The list of immigrant entrepreneurs is a stellar one. Consider a scant few: Elon Musk (SpaceX), Jerry Yang (Yahoo co-founder), Sergey Brin (Google co-founder), Andrew Grove (Intel co-founder), and Liz Claiborne.

President Obama recognized the value of immigrant innovation to America so much that he instituted the International Entrepreneur Rule, to begin in 2017. The rule is intended to make it easier for select immigrants with a proven track record to establish innovative businesses here.

It’s hardly a “gimme.” Among other stipulations, a qualifying immigrant must perform an active role in his/her company’s growth and operations, and must attract at least $250,000 from legitimate U.S. investors. The rule includes no provision for permanent residence.

So what’s not to like about it? You will have to ask President Trump, who has acted to delay, if not end, the program. While federal court action may rescue the IER, the episode reveals as much about the Trump administration’s thinking as recent vulgar references aimed by the president at certain nations.

Why is Mr. Trump in a pell mell rush to eliminate anything containing Barack Obama’s presidential fingerprints? Would he rather that promising SpaceX rocket have launched from foreign soil on Feb. 6?

Robert Lee should consider how the presidency is being diminished by its current occupant. Before he again tosses our FBI under the bus in defense of this administration, as on Feb. 17, he should pause and consider this administration’s approach to the International Entrepreneur Rule and the smart, driven immigrants it seeks to encourage, then ask himself: “Why?”

Douglas Smith