The Startup Community Must Defend Merit-Based Immigration

The Trump administration just moved to kill a key tool to support immigrant entrepreneurs, and the startup community must make our voice heard to save it.

Supported by Republicans and Democrats, the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) operates like a startup visa and allows foreign-born founders to launch new businesses in the U.S., rather than overseas. IER is in place after the National Venture Capital Association (which I lead) successfully sued the Department of Homeland Security when it unlawfully delayed the program last year. But now, the administration is taking new steps to end the rule before it has a chance to bring new companies and innovation to our country.

Why would the administration do something so obviously counter-productive? That’s the question those of us who understand the importance of immigrant entrepreneurship keep asking. The track-record of foreign-born founders is staggering.

Studies show that immigrants have started more than half of America’s privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more, and 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded or co-founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. A 2013 NVCA study found that one-third of all venture-backed companies that went public from 2006 to 2012 had at least one immigrant founder.

Specific to IER, one study found that the rule will create more than 300,000 jobs over 10 years, although I believe this is on the low end because a single entrepreneur could create a startup with tremendous growth or even an entirely new industry. IER is tailored to attract founders who are positioned to launch the next generation of great American companies and would unleash fresh entrepreneurial energy and dynamism that we desperately need in the economy.

The Trump administration’s hostility toward IER is also puzzling considering President Trump’s previous statements on immigration. During the State of the Union address, the president emphasized the need for a “merit-based immigration system — one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.”

By Bobby Franklin for TECHCRUNCH
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