In Partnership with and the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC)

The contribution of immigrants to the American workforce, entrepreneurship, and innovation is vital.  Immigrants make up an outsized proportion of the workforce and start companies at a far higher rate than native born citizens, boosting innovation and job creation in the US. In 2014, immigrants made up more than 20 percent of all US entrepreneurs, despite representing just 13 percent of the overall population. In fact, 40 percent of Fortune 500 firms have at least one first or second generation immigrant founder.

Despite the importance of immigrant founders to the national economy, the US has yet to enact a startup visa that would make it easier for foreign born founders to start and grow companies in the United States. In addition, the potential elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – which could come as early as this week – would result in the loss of legal status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants currently working legally in the US.

For this issue of Catalyst, we are teaming up with our partners at’ Midwest Chapter and the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) – two leading advocacy organizations in support of immigration reform – to highlight the International Entrepreneur Rule, DACA, and activate our readers to voice their support for essential immigration policies in light of an uncertain future.


What is the International Entrepreneur Rule and what problem was it meant to address?

The International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) is a policy (full text here) that will make it easier for foreign-born entrepreneurs to stay in the United States to start their own businesses, create jobs for American-born workers, and contribute to the United States economy. Under the current employment-sponsored immigration system, there is no clear immigration pathway for foreign-born entrepreneurs who aspire to be employers and founders of companies, rather than employees at other companies. IER addresses this major gap in our immigration system by allowing entrepreneurs to stay and grow their businesses in the U.S. for up to 5 years, as long as they can fulfill certain investment, revenue, and job creation requirements.

New American Economy (NAE) recently released a report analyzing IER’s national impact on job creation over time. They estimate that IER will create between 135,000 to 308,000 American jobs in the next decade.


What’s the latest on its status?

On July 10, 2017, one week before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was supposed to start accepting applications for this new program, DHS announced a delay in implementation until March 2018. Furthermore, they also stated their intention to use the next several months to draft a proposal to rescind the rule altogether, meaning the International Entrepreneur Rule is at risk of being eliminated.


Who are the proponents and opponents of this rule?

The majority of Americans — both Democrat and Republican — support fixing our outdated immigration system so that it works better for our economy and our communities, and keeps our country economically competitive. The International Entrepreneur Rule has been championed by hundreds of members of the tech community from across the country, as well as endorsed by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Throughout the former Administration’s process of crafting the rule, worked hard to provide supporters with an opportunity to have a voice in shaping the policy.


University of Illinois alum and Ukrainian-born co-founder of PayPal Max Levchin. Courtesy of


How are other countries capitalizing on the United States’ inability to retain its international entrepreneurs?

Delaying the IER is unquestionably a setback for the U.S. in the global race for talent. We should be encouraging innovators to bring their new ideas, expertise and unique skills here, rather than incentivizing them to put their talents to work for competitors. DHS estimates that 2,940 entrepreneurs will be eligible to start their own businesses under the IER, enabling them to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for American workers over the course of the next decade. Without the IER, the US is at risk of losing these job creators to other countries.


What are possible scenarios of what might happen to the Rule?

Right now, the International Entrepreneur Rule is in limbo. Its future remains at the discretion of DHS. President Trump can’t take direct action, but he can exert his influence over DHS’ decision. In the next several months, DHS may take formal steps to rescind the policy. However, if there is enough public pressure and vocal support for IER, there is still a chance that DHS may choose to preserve the policy and roll it out in March of 2018. If DHS fails to implement IER, there has been talk among legal advocates to litigate against the administration, on the grounds that delaying the policy will negatively impact companies who were hoping to benefit from IER.


What can our readers do to support the International Entrepreneur Rule?

We anticipate a lot of upcoming advocacy around IER closer to March. Please contact David Adeleye at ([email protected]) – he can make sure to touch base with you in the coming months as opportunities arise. As an example of our previous advocacy, check out the recommendations we collected from supporters on IER, many of which were incorporated into the final version of policy.

In the meantime, the best thing you can do to support IER is to be vocal and let the administration know the tech community is paying attention. Our best hope for protecting the rule is to spread the message loud and clear that the tech community supports and demands implementation. You can write an op-ed directed to DHS and the administration, or you can get your local chamber of commerce to issue a statement about IER.


Protections for “Dreamers” Under Immediate Threat

Since the arrival of the Trump administration, immigration has become a key policy issue on the national agenda.  One policy that has taken center stage is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was implemented in 2012 under President Obama.  DACA allows immigrants who arrived as minors legal working status in the United States.  Nationally, the policy has allowed more than 800,000 immigrants to live, work, and contribute to the national economy without fear of deportation.  Despite broad support for the recipients of DACA (often referred to as “Dreamers”), including from President Trump, the policy is current under legal threat from a group of conservative state attorneys general who have threatened to sue the administration unless it begins to dismantle the program by Sept. 5th.  

The dismantling of DACA would affect around 36,000 Illinois residents, who have used the program to qualify for financial aid, secure better jobs and contribute to the state’s economy.  The loss of DACA would lead to thousands of job losses and renew the threat of deportation for Dreamers. The Center for Economic Progress estimates a GDP loss of nearly $2.3B annually if DACA is repealed. In order to preserve protections for Dreamers, Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Graham (R-SC) have introduced the DREAM Act in the US Senate, while House Republicans have introduced the RAC Act.  

Here’s how you can get involved to support Dreamers (via

  1. Call the White House and Members of Congress and tell them that this that repealing DACA is wrong.
  2. Support Members of Congress that oppose a DACA repeal and support Dreamers to speak out against eliminating the policy. 
  3. Ask your Member of Congress to co-sponsor Dreamer legislation such as the DREAM Act or RAC Act now.
  4. Business leaders that want to add their names as co-signers to letters addressed to the Administration in support of DACA can sign IBIC’s DREAM Act CEO Letter.  Those interested should also reach out to [email protected] to be included on future letters.


Governor Rauner Signs the TRUST Act

The ISTC applauds Governor Rauner and a bipartisan group of Illinois lawmakers for passing the TRUST Act (SB 31).  The TRUST Act makes Illinois communities stronger by ensuring that immigrant residents will not be held by state and local police based solely on their immigration status.

From the Illinois Business Immigration Council (IBIC):

WHY TRUST ACT SB 31 is a Good Step Forward for Illinois

1) The core duty of local police is community safety , not federal immigration enforcement. Immigrants are more likely to report crimes and come forward as witnesses to crimes when they are not afraid. Trust Act SB 31 promotes trust between immigrants and local police which strengthens community safety for all Illinois residents.

2) Reduce unnecessary disruption to the workforce – our economy depends on immigrants as workers, business owners and entrepreneurs. Efforts to repair our broken immigration system have been stalled in Congress for well over a decade, with no resolution in sight. That’s the reality that makes the Trust Act a smart move for Illinois.

Read more about the TRUST Act from IBIC.

Watch and Learn: What’s Really Wrong with Our High-Skilled Immigration System?

Argonne Lab Accelerator Pitch Event & Incubator’s 2nd Cohort Accepting Applications

Building an energy or materials science startup is difficult. Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) can help you do that by providing business planning and technical mentorship, up to $200,000 in a fellowship grant, and up to $220,000 to spend on research work at Argonne National Laboratory. Apply to join the second cohort during the application process Sept. 5 through Oct. 13. Sign up to join an information webinar and Q&A on Sept. 13.

Argonne is also organizing a pitch competition to be hosted at UChicago’s Polsky Center. Participating teams are not startup companies looking for investment, but rather early-stage research projects moving their first steps towards understanding the commercial relevance of their technologies. Learn more and RSVP here.

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