Jeff Jacoby
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He got no argument on that score from Murdoch, an Australian native who became a US citizen in 1985. "An immigrant is more likely to start a small business than a non-immigrant," said Murdoch, whose career exemplifies the phenomenon. "You go to Silicon Valley, and you realize it's misnamed: It's not the silicon" that makes it such a high-tech dynamo. "It's the immigrants." Ambitious foreigners "want to dream the American dream," and it's in America's national interest to help them do so.

There is an abundance of empirical evidence that immigration is a tremendous economic driver. A study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of mayors and business leaders advocating for more rational immigration laws, is awash with eye-opening data on immigrant entrepreneurship. More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and immigrants are now more than twice as likely as US natives to start a business. Though the foreign-born account for less than 13 percent of the US population, they created 28 percent of all new American businesses in 2011.

Murdoch and Bloomberg, two of the partnership's co-chairmen, argue that if only more Americans understood what remarkable job-creators immigrants tend to be, fewer politicians would feel the need to play to anti-immigrant xenophobia. Fewer voters would believe the popular canard that foreigners enter America to live off welfare -- or the equally popular, if contradictory, canard that immigrants steal jobs that would otherwise go to Americans.

"People don't come here to put their feet up and collect welfare," Bloomberg said. They come here to work. If there are no jobs, they don't come." You'd never know it from the clamor over illegal immigration -- "Put a damn fence on the border … and start shooting," one GOP congressional candidate recently advised -- but illegal border crossings have sharply declined.

What hasn't declined is the hunger of strivers and dreamers the world over -- talented entrepreneurs eager to bring their gifts here and make a success of themselves. Those would-be immigrants are an extraordinary growth hormone we can't afford to spurn. A broken immigration system threatens America's future economic vitality. Fixing that system must become a priority -- for left, right, and center alike.

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Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for Townhall.com.