By: Richard Herman, Esq., Co-Author, Immigrant, Inc. (Wiley, 2009), and member of Partnership for a New American Economy
When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years ago, our family turned to a renowned oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Her name is Dr. Wei Lin, an immigrant from China. Dr. Lin’s mastery of the medical issues involved, as well as her bedside manner, was a comfort to my father and our family.
When I think of the word “immigrant,” I think of Dr. Lin, and the millions of other immigrants that make America stronger.
Often lost in the heated debate on immigration policy in America is a discussion on how legal immigrants, particularly high-skilled legal immigrants, make outsized contributions to the United States.
While we are starting to hear more about high-skill immigrants’ role in driving the New Economy and creating jobs, helping to launch companies like Google, Yahoo!, Intel, Sun Microsystem, and many other large employers in America, we still don’t hear much talk about the critical role that foreign-born health care professionals play in caring for America’s sick.
As an immigration lawyer who represents foreign-born physicians, nurses, and medical researchers around the country, I am privileged to have a front-row seat to the talents and dedication that immigrants bring to the American health care system. This has driven me to be a passionate advocate for more welcoming immigration laws and a proud supporter and member of the Partnership for a New American Economy, the bipartisan coalition of more than 350 business leaders and mayors making the case that immigration reform is an economic imperative.
And from a personal standpoint, I am married to Dr. Kimberly Chen, an internal medicine physician born in Taiwan. I see how hard she works caring for her patients. In fact, as a child, she was an undocumented immigrant. I’ve heard the stories of her family’s struggle to acquire U.S. Permanent Residency after falling out of legal status.
So, when I hear the anti-immigrant hysteria and vitriol spewing over the airwaves, aimed at undocumented and legal immigrants, I wonder whether America really understands the large role that immigrants play in delivering health care to this country?
Do Americans really appreciate the work that immigrants do as clinical physicians, medical researchers, and as biotechnology entrepreneurs who invent and commercialize medical devices and pharmaceuticals?
Despite legal immigrants comprising only 8% of the population, here are some of the numbers demonstrating their powerful impact in the health professions:
* Nearly 30% of all physicians and surgeons in the U.S. are immigrants;
* 20% of all nurses, psychiatric and home health aides are immigrants;
* More than 17% of all dentists, pharmacists, and clinical laboratory technicians are immigrants.
Immigration Policy Center, December, 2009.
A study by Boston University found that over 25% of all the biotechnology companies in New England were founded by immigrants.
In Greater Cleveland, where I live, it is estimated that over 1/3 of the biotech companies have foreign-born founders.
A casual review of the roster of researchers at facilities like the Lerner Research Center at the Cleveland Clinic unveils a long list of names that suggest an immigrant background. Considering that over 50% of newly-minted life science PhDs in America are awarded to the foreign-born, this should come as no surprise.
In the book, Immigrant, Inc. (Wiley, 2009) which I co-wrote with journalist Robert L. Smith of the Plain Dealer, I unveil these statistics:
* immigrants are twice as likely as native-born to launch a new business;
* immigrants are filing patents at twice the rate of American-born; and
* immigrants are more likely that native-born to have earned an advanced degree.
As with the information technology boom in Silicon Valley where over 50% of the tech companies have an immigrant founder, so too are medical care, innovation, and entrepreneurship blossoming in America in large part due to immigrant contributions.
This is intimately understood by my friend Dr. Jan Vilcek, an immigrant microbiologist from Czechoslovakia who helped to invent the miracle drug, Remicade while working at NYU Medical Center. After making a donation of $100 million to fund medical research at NYU, Dr. Vilcek launched the Vilcek Foundation to help raise awareness on the amazing contributions of immigrants to medical science.
In Dr. Vilcek’s words, “We must help our fellow citizens understand that for this great country to thrive and retain its unique characteristics, it must be open to immigrants.”
As President Obama’s health care reform is implemented over the next several years, and in light of the increasing shortages of health care workers in the United States to tend to the aging baby boomers, it is expected that immigrants will play an even larger role in keeping Americans healthy and enjoying life longer.
Immigrants save American lives and comfort the infirmed every day.
As my family knows full well, a doctor who speaks with an accent is someone special.
Richard Herman is the founder and principal of Herman Legal Group (“HLG”), an Ohio-based immigration law firm serving world-class employers and foreign born talent working throughout the United States. www.HermanLegalGroup.com.
In the field of immigration law, Richard is “AV-Rated,” the highest rating by Martindale–Hubbell’s peer review conducted by lawyers and judges. Richard has consistently been acknowledged as a “Super Lawyer” and “Leading Lawyer” in the immigration field by various business publications. Richard is admitted to the Ohio Bar; the U.S. Federal District Court, Northern District of Ohio; and the U.S. Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.
A fierce advocate for his clients and for immigration law reform, Richard is a nationally-renowned commentator on immigration, global diversity and international business.
He is the co-author of Immigrant, Inc. —Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009, www.ImmigrantInc.com ), has appeared on FOX News (The O’Reilly Factor), ABC News 20/20, National Public Radio, affiliates of NBC, CBS, and ABC, and has been interviewed by numerous television and radio stations around the U.S.
He has appeared in BusinessWeek, Forbes, USA Today, Inc., PC World, Computerworld, CIO, TechCrunch, Washington Times, San Francisco Chronicle, InformationWeek, Journal of Corporate Recruiting, National Lawyers Weekly, Richard Florida and the Creative Class Exchange, Site Selection, and newspapers and magazines around the world.
Richard has been invited to prestigious forums around the country, from Silicon Valley to our nation’s capital, to talk about immigration law and the many ways that immigrants help strengthen America’s economy.
Richard is the co-founder and co-chairman of TiE Ohio, and is a member of the Partnership for a New American Economy.