Today, Mexican immigrant Palermo Galindo is president of the Greater Fort Wayne Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Indiana and serves as the city’s community liaison officer, working with over 200 neighborhood associations. “As a person who wasn’t born in this country, this is my way to pay something back,” he says. “I have a considerable love for my city and my community, and I want to make a contribution.”
Galindo moved to America as a teenager when his father, a civil engineer, took a job in San Antonio, Texas. “It was difficult the first year,” he says, especially since he didn’t speak English. Still, Galindo came to think of America as his home, eventually becoming a citizen in 1997. After attending community college in San Antonio, he earned a degree in graphic design from Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne before opening a small freelance photography business and eventually heading up the Chamber. He says this drive is something he sees in immigrants across Fort Wayne.
They find a way, regardless of whether it takes them two months or two years, to get their business going.
“We definitely see the entrepreneurial side of the immigrant community,” he says. “We’ve got quite a few businesses that have opened up and have transformed several of the important corridors in the city.” And immigrants are having an economic impact statewide: As of 2010, there were almost 12,000 new immigrant business owners in Indiana, and Latinos and Asians alone owned businesses with 39,000 employees and revenues of $5.1 billion. “They’re good for the economy,” Galindo says. “They create more jobs and opportunity for everyone — their businesses employ people from this community, and they invest, buy homes, and spend money.”
Immigrants are creative and bring fresh, innovative perspectives, Galindo says. “Think about the contributions we’ve had from immigrants—people like Einstein and Tesla and others who’ve come and made a difference in this country. They’re revolutionized the world with their ideas,” he says. But they’re also hard working, and their relentless determination makes them such effective entrepreneurs. “They find a way, regardless of whether it takes them two months or two years, to get their business going,” he says. “There’s a spirit there that doesn’t stop, that continues to find ways forward. That’s the entrepreneurial side of immigrant communities—they drive and drive, and keep working to make a good contribution.”
There are lots of people with good intentions for this country and for their families.
That energy is something that American communities should we working to attract and harness, not shut out, Galindo says. He wants the United States to encourage people who want to come here legally and help those who may have entered without documentation but who have shown their commitment to working hard and giving back to their communities. “If their contribution to the country has been positive, and they’ve done good things throughout their stay, then there has to be a process to let them continue to be here,” he says.
For himself and his family, he says, America has been a land of opportunity, and he believes that’s an opportunity that should be extended to more people. “There are lots of people with good intentions for this country and for their families,” he says. “What I know from the immigrants I speak with is that they all want a good education for their children, and to build a life here, and to make a contribution.” A national conversation is needed to find ways to reform the immigration system in a way that can have a positive impact on U.S. communities and on the broader economy, he says. “It’s a process that has to be updated. We have to figure out how to do it.”