The world’s people are migrating in record numbers with wide-ranging effects on the nations they are leaving and entering. To discuss international migration are two students of the subject from Columbia Business School, migrants themselves. Dan Wang is the co-director of the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise and Lambert Family Associate Professor of Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School. Sandra Portocarrero is a postdoctoral research scholar at Columbia Business School, who studies undocumented entrepreneurs. 

The conversation begins with an overview of international migration, about which there is considerable misunderstanding. Americans may think that North America has long been the favored destination of migrants, but nearly twice as many have entered both Europe and Asia in the last half-century. And while the popular conception is that migrants are “pushed” out of their home country by war, political prosecution, or religious persecution, many are “pulled” by the ambition to better their standard of living. 

Misunderstanding of migration into the United States also abounds, in part the product of daily publicity accorded migrants trying to cross the Southern border illegally and often at great peril. Historically however, most illegal migrants entered the United States with visas and became illegal, or unauthorized, by overstaying them. Wang and Portocarrero also point out that many migrants reside in the United States legally and are employed as either skilled or unskilled workers. Lost amidst the political conflict over migrants is the fact that they play essential economic roles whether their residence is legal or not.

The conversation moves next to the role of migrants in New York City. The number of migrants has increased dramatically in recent years; so has negative publicity to the effect that migrants are creating a fiscal crisis in local government and displacing New Yorkers in the labor market (both overstated concerns). Lost in the controversy is the reality that the city needs large numbers of immigrants to overcome labor shortages in key industries, including construction, nursing, home health care, and food services.

The session ends with a discussion of how the Tamer Center is developing the capacity, through research and student outreach, to help develop the entrepreneurial skills of undocumented New Yorkers.

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