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A day to reflect on contributions of our new citizens

On Sept. 17, 1787, the U.S. Constitution was signed by the freshly minted citizens of a newly formed nation. Now celebrated as Citizenship Day, it’s a perfect day to reflect on what it means to be an American citizen.

In my own experience and through many others’ I have met, immigrants have a deep appreciation of this country as they earn their status as American citizens. Making the difficult decision to leave family and home, these intrepid individuals navigate a whole new culture, government, business system — and often a new language — to realize their dreams of building a new life. The sheer determination needed to start over in a new country breeds a unique pride in becoming an American citizen.

Building a better life for themselves often translates into building a better economy for all of us: Nationally, immigrants are 28% more likely to be entrepreneurs than native-born citizens. Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies, 45%, were founded by immigrants or their children. Many of these are our nation’s leading tech companies.

Nearly 1,700 immigrant entrepreneurs have launched businesses in eastern Connecticut. And 19.2% of foreign-born residents in the region have graduate degrees, important for tech sector growth.

Immigrants represent $1.3 billion in spending power in our region; and they contribute $173.8 million in state and local taxes, and $372.3 million in federal taxes.

Eastern Connecticut is stronger and better because we have welcomed immigrants as business owners, coworkers, students and neighbors. On Citizenship Day this year, I would like to hold up the contributions made by our newest citizens as inspiration as well as express appreciation for all the ways they enrich our society.

The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut proudly operates an Immigrant Resource Center to support foreign-born entrepreneurs and professionals in our region.

Tony Sheridan is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and a former first selectman of Waterford. He emigrated from Ireland at age 19.

 

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