St. Patrick’s Day is not simply a holiday to celebrate Irish heritage; it’s also a celebration of the immigration of many Irishmen and women to the shores of our country. From America’s founding, immigrants from a vast array of countries have been a central cornerstone of our nation’s incredible economic growth. It is no coincidence that periods of our nation’s most rapid economic growth coincided with its being the destination for the world’s immigrants who embody the entrepreneurial spirit so critical to our nation’s economy.
Countless CEOs attest to the fact that one of the keys to business growth is a dynamic workforce driven by energy, innovation and new ideas. Immigrants have always shown the drive to launch new ideas, expand existing companies — and are twice as likely as native-born citizens to start new businesses. According to one study, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded either by immigrants or by their children, including such household “American” brands as Kraft or eBay.
American businesses are increasingly competing on an international scale, and we are far behind our global competitors in a traditional area where our nation has always thrived: immigration. We are losing our technological edge over our global competitors India and China, and by 2018 America will face a 200,000-person shortfall of degree-holders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Yet our current immigration system bans our foreign-born students in these critical STEM fields from staying and filling this shortage.