Immigrants made American business what it is today

Trump's twists and turns on DACA
Trump's twists and turns on DACA

Imagine the United States with no AT&T. No Procter & Gamble. No Bank of America.

Also no Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) or eBay (EBAY). And no upstarts like Tesla, SpaceX or Uber.

These companies share one important characteristic besides the thousands of employees who depend on them for a paycheck: They all were founded or co-founded by an immigrant, or the child of immigrants.

As the Trump administration scraps DACA, the policy that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay and work in America, consider just how many American companies have immigrant roots.

Because while many people think of immigrants as employees or consumers, they're also among the nation's most important job creators and employers.

It's not a new phenomenon. Procter & Gamble (PG), the giant consumer products company behind Tide detergent, Pampers diapers and Bounty paper towels, was founded in 1837 by brothers-in-law who had immigrated from England and Ireland.

AT&T (T) was started in 1875 by Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish immigrant, while A.P. Giannini, the son of Italian immigrants, started Bank of America (BAC) in 1904 under the name Bank of Italy in San Francisco.

Google was co-founded in 1998 by Sergey Brin, whose family immigrated from Russia when he was about 6 years old. Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, was born in Paris to Iranian parents who moved to the United States when he was a child.

And while Apple founder Steve Jobs was born in the United States and adopted by American parents, his biological father was a Syrian-born immigrant.

Related: Trump's DACA decision could cost thousands of jobs, study says

By one estimate, about 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Together they have annual revenue of $4.8 trillion and employ 18.9 million people around the world, according to a study last year by New American Economy, a public interest group advocating for immigration reform.

The study found that immigrants have founded not only many large companies, but millions of small businesses as well. In 2015, immigrants were almost twice as likely to start a business as the native-born population, according to the study, which analyzed Census and other public data.

It said 2.9 million immigrants are self-employed, and their businesses generated $65.5 billion in income in 2014. And their role as entrepreneurs is crucial to the health of the nation's economy. Labor Department data shows that most job creation occurs in small businesses.

Related: Business leaders call on Trump to protect DACA

And some of those startups have already grown into large business.

Of the 87 private companies estimated to be worth $1 billion or more, 44 were founded by immigrants, according to a March 2016 study by the National Foundation for American Policy, a think tank advocating on immigration issues. Those companies have an average of 760 employees each.

The study said the largest in terms of jobs are SpaceX, which employs 4,000, and Uber, which has 900 direct employees plus 162,000 drivers who are independent contractors. SpaceX was founded by South African immigrant Elon Musk, who is also founder and CEO of Tesla. Canadian immigrant Garrett Camp was co-founder of Uber.

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