There's a record number of immigrant-founded companies on the Fortune 500, despite Trump-era policies

Sergey Brin

  • A new report found that 45% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
  • Some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies fall into that category, like Amazon, Apple, Tesla, and Alphabet, Google's parent company.
  • The report indicates that the number of immigrant-founded or children-of-immigrant-founded businesses has grown since last year.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A new report finds that 45% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, among them tech heavy-hitters like Amazon, Apple, Tesla, and Google parent company Alphabet.

While the contribution of immigrants to startups has long been known, these recent findings are increasingly relevant due to President Donald Trump's policies affecting migration. Most recently, the current administration has tightened asylum rules for migrants by making it harder for family members to receive protection, which could keep thousands from seeking refuge in the US.

According to the report, conducted by research organization New American Economy, the 45% of companies founded by immigrants or their children generated $16.1 trillion in revenue in 2018, a higher proportion than in previous years.

The number of companies on the list has also increased: there were 204 in 2011, and 223 in 2019. Of those, 101 were founded by people born outside the US, and 122 were founded by the children of immigrants. Famous examples abound: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' adoptive father was Cuban, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs' biological father was Syrian, Tesla cofounder Elon Musk is South African, and Google cofounder Sergey Brin was born in Russia. (In other words, a world without immigrant founders would mean you couldn't google Amazon return policies on your iPhone after parking your Tesla.)

Immigrant entrepreneurs under Trump

According to the Pew Research Center, the US is home to more immigrants than any other country, with the foreign-born population reaching a record 44.4 million in 2017. Immigrants are also projected to drive future growth in the working-age population by adding nearly 18 million people of working age through at least 2035.

Despite these projections, experts say the Trump administration's hardline approach to immigration is deterring newcomers. In fact, net migration to the US fell 12% from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2018, according to the Census Bureau.

"Folks around the world are thinking twice about making the journey to the US to start a business or to pursue their higher education dreams," Ali Noorani, executive director of nonprofit advocacy group National Immigration Forum, told Business Insider. "I think the Trump administration has taken a wrecking ball to our legal immigration system. Our economy, in the long run, is much less competitive."

Some Trump-era policies affecting the flow of migrants include slowing down legal immigration proceedings, according to the New York Times. Applying for a green card is more difficult, with wait times doubling since 2017.

Still, the country's favorable polices for startups and small businesses continue to be a driving force for migration to the US, the Harvard Business Review reports. This appreciation of America's opportunities not only gives immigrants a competitive edge, it helps them not take their success for granted, says Ibrahim AlHusseini, a Jordan-born serial entrepreneur.

"This idea that somehow, somebody is a real American who loves America more than someone else, and that an immigrant is here to take something away from someone is false," AlHusseini told Business Insider. "In fact, I attest that somebody who moves here from any place else in the world actually has a greater and more nuanced love for this country because they have contrast."

AlHusseini moved to the US for college, then remained after founding his first startup. In 2013 he founded FullCycle, an investment company working to reverse the effects of climate change. As an advocate for immigrant business owners, he advises entrepreneurs in other countries looking to make it big in the US to not be discouraged by the current political climate.

"Don't listen to the fear-mongering out there and realize that this is just a small bump in the road, and this is a very long road," he said. "Don't give up on that, and don't let any characters on Twitter or on television scare you off."

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