We can never tell the stories of successful immigrants enough. Admittedly, the Trump Administration and those who oppose immigration largely do so despite the overwhelming body of information that counters the narrative that immigrants—legal and undocumented—are drags on the economy. Perhaps one day, the reality of the situation will matter, and we need to have information at our fingertips for those who can be persuaded.
Studies repeatedly show that immigrants are entrepreneurial, and recently Forbes listed its most successful immigrant women in 2019, including the Barbados-born Rihanna. She is worth approximately $600 million, most of which came from ventures outside of music.
The list also includes women who didn’t come with an obvious path to success. Billionaire Eren Ozmen moved to the U.S. from Turkey to go to school. She sold baklava and worked as a janitor to pay her way through business school at the University of Nevada, Reno. Now, she is president and majority owner of defense company Sierra Nevada—the company that initially employed her as a janitor.
Although Trump’s imagination gravitates to Nordic countries when he envisions immigrants who would make positive contributions, none of the women on this year’s list come from Norway, Denmark or Sweden. Three women on the list of Forbes’ most successful self-made immigrant women come from South Korea, two come from India, two come from Canada, and two come from Israel. The rest come from Barbados, Myanmar, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Romania, China, Germany, Indonesia, Morocco, and Taiwan.
This story isn’t simply one for entrepreneurial stars in the financial capitals of America. As we’ve documented before, immigrants are an important part of Louisiana’s economic life, where in 2010 8.2 percent of businesses were owned by immigrants, who accounted for 6.7 percent of all business income in the state—more that $691 million.
Sadly, this conversation has largely taken place in a fact-free arena where assumptions and stereotypes about immigrants carry far more significance than they should. As we fight for justice, we need to fight to correct the record too.