Presidential candidate Andrew Yang said that “immigrants are being scapegoated” for reasons that have “nothing to do with our economy” during the second night of the Democratic debates on Wednesday night.
“I'm the son of immigrants myself,” said the 44-year-old entrepreneur. “My father immigrated here as a graduate student and generated over 65 U.S. patents for G.E. and IBM. I think that's a pretty good deal for the United States. That's the immigration story we need to be telling. We can’t always be focusing on some of the distressed stories.”
He added: “If you go to a factory here in Michigan, you will not find wall-to-wall immigrants; you will find wall-to-wall robots and machines. Immigrants are being scapegoated for issues they have nothing to do with in our economy.”
Yang has a point: According to a new analysis, immigrants and their children actually founded 223 of the Fortune 500 companies
Immigrants responsible for 233 of Fortune 500 companies
Various studies have been done to quantify the benefits of immigration on the U.S. economy.
A recent analysis by the New American Economy, a research and advocacy group that is pro-immigration, found that nearly 45% of this year’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
That’s 223 out of 500 companies in the U.S. 101 were directly founded by foreign-born individuals, and 122 founded by children of immigrants.
Those companies collectively generated $6.1 trillion in revenue in 2019 — which is bigger than the GDP of countries like Japan, Germany, and the UK — and employed 13.5 million people.
While New York, California, and Illinois have the largest number of Fortune 500 companies — with 10 or more — small and medium businesses are also important, the report stressed, and “immigrants have a significant role to play here, with nearly 3.2 million immigrants running their own businesses.”
A separate study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that immigrant-owned technology firms in the U.S. were found to be more innovative than U.S.-born firms.
The report, which looked at 11,000 owners of 7,400 high-tech employer businesses, found that “uniformly higher rates of innovation in immigrant-owned firms for 15 of 16 different innovation measures; the only exception is for copyright/trademark.”
‘This should be a country that honors everyone’
Former Vice President Joe Biden also supported this notion — that anybody “with a PhD, you should get a green card for seven years. We should keep them here,” he said.
But not all the candidates supported this assertion. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (D) said that differentiating types of immigration was counterproductive to the overall conversation.
“This really irks me because I heard the vice president say that if you got a PhD, you can come right into this country. Well that’s playing into what the Republicans want to pit some immigrants against other immigrants… [as some are] from are from ‘shithole’ countries and some are from worthy countries,” responded Booker.
“We need to reform this whole immigration system and begin to be the country that says everyone has worth and dignity and this should be a country that honors everyone.”
Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.