President’s Message: May 2016

At the April meeting of the CCCBA Board of Directors, the board considered and approved the request from a group of local immigration attorneys to establish an immigration law section. Flavio Carvalho presented the application on behalf of the attorneys and explained the great need for immigration attorneys, not just in Contra Costa, but around the country.

Immigration issues often arise in the employment, business, family and criminal law context. With immigrants comprising 14 percent of America’s population and growing,1 it is clear that the need for attorneys with immigration law knowledge is essential.

The economic benefits of immigration can be significant. As an economic leader, the United States is able to attract well-educated and exceptionally qualified professionals, scientists, innovators and artists from around the world.

These highly educated individuals are in great demand by American businesses. They bring not only their knowledge, but also help us to expand our reach in the global economy.

In my March column, I wrote about the benefits of diversity in the workplace.2 You will recall that McKinsey and Company reported that diverse companies tend to experience greater financial success, which was attributed, in part, to better connections with other diverse companies and communities.

In a global economy, where markets and opportunities reach beyond borders, the same arguments apply to immigration. Companies that have better connections and understand local cultures and laws, both here and abroad, will likely achieve greater success.

Here are just a few statistics demonstrating the role of immigrants in creating a healthy American economy:

  • Eighteen percent of all small businesses are owned by immigrants.
  • In 2007, immigrant-owned companies employed 4.7 million people and generated income of more than $776 billion.3

Immigrants aren’t just contributing through small businesses. Google was founded by an immigrant. Microsoft, Oracle and Google are all lead by foreign-born CEOs. In fact, Forbes reports that about 43 percent of recent Silicon Valley startups had at least one foreign-born founder.4

Even those immigrants who come to the United States fleeing war, famine and human rights violations have something to contribute. In a recent article, the New Yorker reports that Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which cumulatively had taken in about 4 million Syrian refugees as of 2015, had all experienced economic growth over this period.

Turkey’s economy grew by 3 percent last year and is expected to grow by 4 percent this year.5Not bad, compared to the United States’ approximate 2 percent rate of growth in 2015.6

Of course, there are challenges, too. Language can be a significant barrier to assimilation. Often, immigrants are vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation in housing and employment. They may not understand how to access services or seek assistance. The challenge of dealing with individuals who don’t speak English is a real concern for our courts and schools.

In this edition of the Contra Costa Lawyer, local attorneys thoughtfully introduce us to some of the legal aspects and challenges of immigration, and how immigration intersects with other areas of the law. I invite you to dig in!

[2] The Value in Diversity, Contra Costa Lawyer, March 2016.