On Tuesday, more than 60 tech entrepreneurs including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of President Obama’s (currently frozen) executive actions that would temporarily protect some undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the U.S. The move was not surprising in that Zuckerberg has been a vocal supporter of immigration reform personally and also through the advocacy group FWD.us, which he helped set up in 2013 along with people like Marissa Mayer and Bill Gates.
In stark contrast, real-estate billionaire and current GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has gotten a lot of attention for his ideas on immigration reform, which include building a wall across the southern border (that Mexico would pay for) and a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
No doubt immigration is a polarizing and critical issue these days, both from a political standpoint and from a social one, as the number of refugees around the world top more than 15 million, its highest level in 20 years. In that context it is important to remember that some of America’s most successful entrepreneurs and business owners are actually foreign-born.
Both Zuckerberg and Trump may have been born in the U.S. (although Zuckerberg’s in-laws are immigrants as is Trump’s wife), but FORBES found 45 foreign-born billionaires in the country. They hail from 27 countries, and they have all made their fortunes in America. Representing every single “liveable” continent, most of them come from Israel and India, followed by China (see full list below).
Led by Russian-born Sergey Brin with a net worth of $34.4 billion, the list includes George Soros, an impoverished Hungarian immigrant turned business magnate; Elon Musk, the South African-native behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX; and Jan Koum, the co-founder of popular messaging platform WhatsApp, whose success is a tale of rags-to-riches from Ukraine.
While these are the biggest success stories, one in four of all technology and engineering companies created in the U.S. between 2006 and 2010 were founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Among the 25% is WeWork, which provides a shared workspace for other up-and-coming entrepreneurs. WeWork was co-founded in New York City in 2010 by Israeli Adam Neumann, who was raised on a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip. The company is now valued at $10 billion, and he is worth an estimated $1.5 billion.
One other notable immigrant who has had success in the U.S. is Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish founder of the popular Greek yogurt, Chobani, now the 3rd biggest yogurt brand in the U.S. Ulukaya is not only making a name in the food aisles, but he’s also trying to make a difference for refugees. His company tries to welcome refugees who legally come to America, looking for safety and more opportunities. Chobani offers translations in 11 different languages at its plants and supports language classes in English. Ulukaya has also traveled to Lesbos, Greece and Hamburg, Germany to meet with refugees and visit housing centers, as well as entrepreneurs looking at innovative approaches to helping refugees.
The future of immigration in the U.S. is up in the air, but foreign born billionaires have already lived out their American dreams.
Below is the full list of foreign-born billionaires in the U.S:
- Sergey Brin, Russia, $34.4 billion
- George Soros, Hungary, $24.9 billion
- Len Blavatnik, Ukraine, $15.3 billion
- Patrick Soon-Shiong, South Africa, $11.9 billion
- Thomas Peterffy, Hungary, $11.1 billion
- Elon Musk, South Africa, $10.7 billion
- Rupert Murdoch, Australia, $10.6 billion
- Jan Koum, Ukraine, $8.6 billion
- Pierre Omidyar, France, $7.2 billion
- Hansjoerg Wyss, Switzerland, $6.1 billion
- Shahid Khan, Pakistan, $5.9 billion
- David Sun, Taiwan, $4.5 billion
- John Tu, China, $4.5 billion
- Do Won and Jin Sook Chang, Korea, $4 billion
- Jeffrey Skoll, Canada, $3.9 billion
- Steven Udvar-Hazy, Hungary, $3.5 billion
- Hoang Kieu, Vietnam, $3.5 billion
- Isaac Perlmutter, Israel, $3.5 billion
- Haim Saban, Egypt, $3.5 billion
- Igor Olenicoff, Russia, $3.5 billion
- John Catsimatidis, Greece, $3.4 billion
- Andreas von Bechtolsheim, Germany, $3.3 billion
- Tom Gores, Israel, $3.3 billion
- Jorge Perez, Argentina, $3 billion
- Romesh T. Wadhwani, India, $2.8 billion
- Peggy and Andrew Cherng, Burma and China, $2.7 billion
- Peter Thiel, Germany, $2.7 billion
- Michael Moritz, U.K., $2.6 billion
- Bharat Desai and Neerja Sethi, Kenya, $2.5 billion
- Mortimer Zuckerman, Canada, $2.5 billion
- Douglas Leone, Italy, $2.4 billion
- C. Dean Metropoulos, Greece, $2.4 billion
- Min Kao, Taiwan, $2.2 billion
- Alec Gores, Israel, $2.1 billion
- John Kapoor, India, $2 billion
- Kavitark Ram Shriram, India, $1.8 billion
- Marc Lasry, Morocco, $1.7 billion
- John Farber, Romania, $1.5 billion
- Adam Neumann, Israel, $1.5 billion
- Jerry Yang, Taiwan, $1.5 billion
- Hamdi Ulukaya, Turkey, $1.5 billion
- Vinod Khosla, India, $1.5 billion
- Fayez Sarofim, Egypt, $1.4 billion
- Thomas Sandell, Sweden, $1.3 billion
- David Hindawi, Iraq, $1 billion
*Net worths as of February 12 when FORBES locked in numbers for the 2016 World’s Billionaires Rankings.