More CEOs Should Be Like Chipotle’s Moran

By Felicia Persaud

This past year, several organizations have released data to prove that immigrants are truly important in driving economic growth and innovation in America. Not only are they laborers, but as the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy research organization in Arlington, VA revealed last week, nearly half of America’s top 50 venture-backed companies are immigrant founded while many more who are headed by immigrant CEOs.

But few CEOs, whether immigrant or not, are speaking out as much for immigration reform as Chipotle’s Monty Moran, who employs 30,000 people nationwide, half of whom are Latinos.

Since Chipotle, the Mexican burrito restaurant chain was forced to fire hundreds of workers in Minnesota, Virginia and D.C. because they were undocumented, its immigrant CEO has become an advocate for immigration reform.

Moran has now taken to meeting with members of Congress from Colorado, New York, Texas and California in an effort to overhaul the immigration system. For as he summed it up aptly to the Wall Street Journal: “Immigration is really messed up.”

His message to politicians is that the company can’t keep its staff full if it can’t hire immigrants. So he wants an alternative solution that will allow immigrants to work legally and permanently, a recommendation that has been made consistently by many advocates, including this writer. What is so hard to give hard working undocumented immigrants a work permit and travel document so they can live and work legally?

But the reality is that until more CEOs with power and money, who pay the $38,000 per plate to attend fundraising dinners for politicians, including for Obama in New York and Silicon Valley, speak up for this cause, little if nothing will get done.

We’ve already heard the madness from the right wingers and the deafening silence from the Obama White House. Now it’s time for the immigrants who lead the almost 75 percent of our country’s leading cutting-edge and top venture-backed companies to add their voices to Moran’s.

After all, immigrant founders have created an average of approximately 150 jobs per company in the United States and today’s breakthrough companies are often founded by immigrants or at least employ a foreign-born scientist, engineer or CEO crucial to business growth and product development, according to the National Foundation for American Policy.

The argument has to be consistently economic in order for the politicians to take immigration reform seriously, especially since as NFAP says, “policies that help retain talent in the United States are likely to yield both more start up companies and the personnel needed to create more jobs and innovation in America.”

As Moran wisely put it: “We’ve got a business to run and need great people. It’s always been our job to build the business up with the foundation of the very best people we can find. Period.”

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.