work visaThe US Senate is on the brink of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would make it easier for tech companies to hire foreign workers, and for foreigners to come to the US to start companies. As a vote on the bill moves nearer, much of the discussion on Capitol Hill has been focused on border security as Republicans have sought – and won – concessions in exchange for their support of the bill.

In the meantime, the National Venture Capitalist Association has chimed in with a judiciously-timed study that provides a glimpse of just how much value immigrant entrepreneurs pump into the American economy.

The NVCA’s study, “American Made 2.0: How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Continue to Contribute to the US Economy,” authored by Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy, has found that an increasing number of public companies have immigrant founders and that immigrant entrepreneurs are jobs machines. The full report, which is an update of a 2006 study, won’t be released until July, but the NVCA issued a press release today that highlights some of its key findings. They are as follows:

More public companies have immigrant founders now than six years ago

Of the US venture-backed companies that became publicly traded between 2006 and 2012, 33 percent have at least one immigrant founder. These companies include well-known names such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Zipcar and Tesla Motors. This compares to 20 percent of venture-funded companies with an initial public offering prior to January 1, 2006. Before 1980, only 7 percent of US publicly traded venture-funded companies had an immigrant founder or co-founder.

Immigrant-founded venture-backed companies create a lot of value

Venture-backed, publicly traded immigrant-founded companies have a total market capitalization of $900 billion (as of June 2013), an increase of approximately $400 billion since 2006 when the market value of these companies was in the $500 billion range.

Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs

Immigrant-founded venture-backed, public companies employ approximately 600,000 people worldwide, the majority in the United States. Among the largest employers are Intel, Google, Sanmina, eBay, PAREXEL, and Yahoo. Immigrant-founded companies that went public since 2006 employ 65,450 people, with annual sales of over $17 billion.

The NVCA also sent out a survey to its members and the companies in which they had invested. Of the more than 600 respondents, 33 percent of the entrepreneurs were foreign-born. Among all company founders, 79 percent believed the process for foreign-born entrepreneurs to come to the US to start a business is too difficult, and 74 percent believed the current immigration laws harm American competitiveness. Finally, 90 percent of all founders thought a “startup visa” would help the US economy. 

Meanwhile, the Mark Zuckerberg-funded tech lobby group FWD.us has also stepped up its efforts to thrust the immigration debate to the forefront of its stakeholders’ attention as the Senate gets ready for the vote. After Zuck posted FWD’s new TV ad about the need for immigration reform to his Facebook wall, he responded to questions in the comments, stressing the group’s focus on comprehensive reform and defending FWD’s controversial tactics.

Questioned by TechCrunch’s Greg Ferenstein about FWD’s perceived lack of transparency, Zuck replied:

I think we’ve been way more transparent than other political groups I can think of in terms of disclosing which ads we run, who our funders are, what our platform is and what tactics we’ll use. I think what’s going on is that some folks are upset that we’re supporting politicians who have other views they don’t agree with — even though we’ve been quite clear that we’re going to support people in both parties who have the courage to support immigration reform and stick their necks out to do so. That approach — of actually trying to work with people on both sides — is what makes us unique. It may sound crazy, but most political groups don’t do it. And without bringing people in different parties and with different views together, meaningful reform will never happen.

The Senate is expected to make an announcement on its immigration deal today. It now seems more likely than ever that the bill will win the support of at least 70 senators, which would give the debate strong momentum in the House of Representatives, upping the pressure on reticent Republicans to pass comprehensive reform.