The diaspora experience has long been "America's Story." As Russell Shorto's book, The Island at the Center of the World, details, seventeenth-century Manhattan was a microcosm of the much larger American diaspora to follow: among the island's then-400 inhabitants, 18 different languages were spoken. Centuries later, this description not only fits New York, but also the United States as a whole. Today, almost one quarter of Americans are first- or second-generation diasporans.
Members of diaspora communities are grassroots ambassadors, often returning to their countries of origin or heritage to speak about America's values. For such communities, supporting higher living standards, economic growth, and political stability is about helping their friends and families, not simply a matter of traditional policy or diplomacy.
In the United States, immigrant-owned companies generate an estimated $67 billion in business each year. Strikingly, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to form new businesses than U.S.-born citizens. Nowhere is the role of diasporans more prominent than in Silicon Valley -- the innovation capital of the world: 52 percent of all startups there have been founded by immigrants. These companies generated $52 billion in revenue and employed 450,000 workers in 2005. Immigration, across many decades and generations, has created jobs for millions of people in the United States.
For America to remain the world's beacon, as well as its most dynamic economy and society, we need to keep our doors open and be a land of opportunity. We need to invite, welcome, and honor those from around the world who want to come here to build a new life and, in so doing, help build a dynamic, prosperous, and competitive America that will thrive in the coming decades and centuries. Immigrants from around the world enrich America, are deeply committed to its success, and make us a more innovative and energetic country.
About the Author: Robert D. Hormats serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.