By NINA MOLD
As the economy plummets and unemployment figures soar, the United States needs entrepreneurs more than ever before. It’s a fact that almost half the American work force is employed by small business owners, and a lesser known fact that a large proportion of those small business owners are foreign nationals. The irony is that regardless of time spent in the United States, success of the business or number of people employed, those foreign nationals (E2 investors) have no path to permanent residence.
Due to the failure of consecutive administrations to address this enigma, would-be investors are now turning to Australia, Canada and other countries where their contributions to the economy are recognized, appreciated and rewarded.
At my small enterprise in Naples, I employ five full-time and four part-time U.S. citizens. I can offer them decent pay, good working conditions and my appreciation for their skills and loyalty. What I cannot offer them is the thing they need most in the current economic climate — job security.
Each time I have to leave the country to renew my visa, it’s very stressful for all of us. Should my renewal be denied for any reason, my family and I will lose everything we have, and my employees will join the ranks of the unemployed.
This scenario is played out every day across America, as the thousands of E2 investors, their families and their employees walk a tightrope of uncertainty. If these investors had a path to permanent residence, there’s little doubt they would invest further and create more jobs.
Some investors come here and find the lifestyle is not for them. Others discover they were not cut out to run a business. But the vast majority of us, who jumped through all the hoops to come here legally, have worked hard to succeed and feel we have earned our chance at the American dream.
To their shame, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, U.S. Reps. Connie Mack IV and Mario Diaz-Balart, as well as Gov. Charlie Crist and a myriad of other Florida politicians who claim to be interested in reform and have been approached for help, have declined.
The fact that Florida is the destination of choice for large numbers of E2 investors is, seemingly, of little interest to them, even though so many of their constituents are directly affected.
Only U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Lakeland, has shown any willingness to support our cause, and our appreciation of that support knows no bounds.
As a new administration takes the helm and attempts to steer the country into calmer waters, I hope the opportunity to pursue citizenship is offered, not just to those who entered illegally, but also to those who abided by the laws of the land and paid dearly for the right to be here.
You can add your support by signing the online petition at E2Reform.org.
(Originally pubished in the Daily News in January 2009)