Updated: October 16, 2013 6:44AM
A friend’s words jarred me a few months ago.
“I fail to see how amnesty and open borders, which is what we’d get under the Senate bill, will help the country,” he wrote in an email exchange about immigration reform.
His shortsighted view startled me. Then, too, many Americans still fail to see the big picture when it comes to immigration reform. Some are caught up in stereotypes of Latinos; others are intimidated by their rising numbers, as if our country should stand frozen in time. They fail to see the ways in which Latinos contribute to America.
Or more to the point, they fail to see how Latinos help the economy.
I could focus on spending. Latinos, after all, have a buying power of $1.2 trillion, according to a Nielsen report. Hollywood and advertisers are busy trying to corner a Latino market that has been rising for decades.
But we can’t overlook the entrepreneurial spirit of Latinos, which has remained strong despite the country’s economic troubles.
“The immigrants of today are Hispanic, and they are creating jobs at unprecedented rates,” said Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. His group will convene for its convention at the Chicago Hilton Sunday through Tuesday.
You can look at immigration reform in different ways. One is with compassion for millions of undocumented immigrants who have made a life here, many since they were children, and consider America home.
Palomarez and the chamber take a different view: They are all about dollars and business sense when they advocate for Latinos. It’s hard to argue with their numbers.
There are about 3 million Latino-owned small businesses in the U.S., according to the chamber, up from 2.3 million in 2007. They make up the fastest-growing group of business owners. Their economic output is worth hundreds of billions.
“We’re not going to get out of the economic downturn without small business,” Palomarez said. “The leader is Hispanic small business.”
Whereas some see undocumented immigrants as a drain on government resources, Palomarez sees future business owners from this vast pool. “We’re not talking solely about Hispanics,” he said. “Immigrants are an asset.”
That’s the way America has typically rolled, with immigrants playing a significant role in this country when it comes to business and innovation.
Here are a few such giants in the world of business: Google co-founder Sergey Brin was born in the Soviet Union. Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang is from Taiwan. Fashion designer Liz Claiborne came from Belgium. Maxwell Kohl, who launched Kohl’s department stores, was born in Poland.
Now is not the time to stunt innovative minds. Immigration reform would unleash entrepreneurial spirit, Palomarez said.
Yet, those balking at immigration reform tend to focus on cliches and falsehoods about immigrants rather than their contributions. There is no better illustration of that than in the Republican-controlled House, where immigration reform could be tabled until 2015.
Dire international events, such as confronting Syria over its chemical weapons attack, understandably have precedence over immigration reform. But the House is a big mess of excuses, and its desire to put an immigration on the back burner has been evident since the get-go.
Too many are content to let falsehoods continue.