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Making the American Dream Real With Immigration Policy | Commentary

Tariq Farid was raised in the fruit orchards of Pakistan. His parents made their living off nature’s bounty but always dreamed of something bigger. They dreamed of raising their son in a land of opportunity, in a country where he could reach his full potential.

They dreamed of America.

In 1981, Tariq’s uncle helped them realize that dream, reuniting the family by sponsoring them to come to the coastal community of West Haven, Conn. So at age 11, Tariq immigrated to America.

He may not have known the language, the food or the customs, but he did know how to work hard. And that’s exactly what he did. Tariq took on every odd job he could — from paper routes to snow plows, he never said no — and he brought every dime home to support his family. When his father hobbled together $6,000 to purchase a florist shop, he put 16-year-old Tariq in charge. It was there that Tariq thought to combine his fond memories of fruit in Pakistan with his floral arranging skills, and the result is familiar to millions of Americans today: Edible Arrangements.

Today, there are more than 1,100 Edible Arrangements stores throughout the world. The company made Inc.’s “10 Promising Franchises of 2011” list, and’s “Top Franchises for the Money” list for 2011. Edible Arrangements’ success underpins one of the most important aspects of our ongoing discussion about comprehensive immigration reform: the importance of family. Families are the best safety net the world has ever known. Relatives support one another, often catching loved ones when they fall — long before a single government cent is spent on food stamps or Medicaid.

If someone gets sick, a loved one cares for them. If someone loses their job, other family members support them. If they can’t get a loan, relatives pool resources to start businesses. In fact, Tariq turned to his parents for a loan and his brother for a business partner when he started Edible Arrangements. Immigrants — the majority of whom come to this country through family visas — are twice as likely to start businesses as people born in the United States.

The businesses immigrants start support the very backbone of our economy. Two out of every 3 new jobs created in the United States are created by small businesses, and nearly 1 in 5 small-business owners are immigrants. As these businesses succeed, they hire new workers and generate more revenue, strengthening the economy for all Americans. More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. These companies now employ more than 10 million people and bring in $4.2 trillion in revenue per year.

Family units are the drivers of these businesses and this reality should be front and center for lawmakers as we push for immigration reform. To remain competitive in our global economy, we can’t afford to miss out on the tremendous contributions from immigrants like Tariq and his family. Any reform we consider must protect our family-based immigration system.

Rep. Judy Chu is a Democrat from California.

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