Hispanic businesses are the answer to the refugee crisis

Ukrainian refugees arrive at the crossing border in Medyka, southeastern Poland
AP/Visar Kryeziu

Once again, the eyes of the world are on migrants and refugees. Some 2 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia began its invasion late last month, and eastern European nations have spun up new operations to deal with the massive influx of dispossessed, downtrodden people at their borders. Sadly, the photos and videos of mothers with worried eyes clutching children and bags waiting anxiously at checkpoints have become all too familiar. Here in America, you can see it almost every day at our southern border.

Our experience dealing with migrants fleeing conflict or seeking asylum in the United States puts us in a position to offer help and guidance as these kinds of crises become more prevalent. At present, the Biden administration and business leaders are engaged in an all-hands effort to address the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  

The Partnership for Central America (PCA), a public-private partnership launched last May by Vice President Kamala Harris, is a once-in-a-generation initiative to address international development and migration in a responsible, sustainable way that has tangible benefits. It is on track to become a model for such programs around the world. 

And increasingly, Hispanic American business leaders — some with roots in the region — are taking leading roles in the effort. Such is the case at Global Development Advisors (GDA), headquartered in Virginia and led by a Peruvian-American female entrepreneur who brings to the Northern Triangle a portfolio of private sector companies and on the ground coalition of regional institutions to contribute to solving the challenges that prevent economic growth in the region. GDA’s transformative work, led by Paty Funegra, will be pivotal to implementing strategic solutions that create the type of generational growth needed for lasting stability. Short-term success is nothing without a sustainable future.

If you look at the data, this should come as no surprise. The American business community is looking more and more Hispanic every year. A Stanford University study found that Hispanics start businesses at a faster rate than anybody else. Over the last decade, Hispanic businesses grew by 44 percent while non-Hispanic businesses grew by only 4 percent. Simply put, we’re hustling. But the hustle isn’t just about us. Community is very important to Hispanics and giving a hand-up in moments of crisis is what we do. As our community’s success in the United States has increased, we’ve put ourselves in a position to foster development abroad, too. That’s why the Partnership for Central America is so important.

As Hispanic business owners, we are proud of our community’s success in the United States and eager to help export that success and unlock the potential of the people in developing communities. The business community and the private sector can play an important role in orchestrating collective action and co-creation on this effort. There has never been a more demanding moment in history than today. We can harness local entrepreneurship to increase productivity and bring the type of capital that can play a critical role in transforming the lives and well-being of citizens. The experience of several other countries in Latin America demonstrates that investing in entrepreneurship creates not only jobs and attracts foreign investments but creates growth, and economic prosperity. 

Through the PCA, Vice President Harris has brought the government and major companies together to make direct investments in Northern Triangle communities. Its mission is to improve access to health care, banking, education and the internet to power the next generation of leaders in the region. More jobs will be generated in key sectors like manufacturing and agriculture which will offer a greater economic outlook to young people looking to establish their own economic footing. This is how long-term growth begins.

Already the PCA has raised more than $1.2 billion from private companies for investments in the Northern Triangle. Investments like these will be critical to this mission’s success. We embrace the progress the private sector and the government have made to create adequate infrastructure in the region, but we must also capitalize on the talent of entrepreneurs in the Northern Triangle as dynamic forces for change. Entrepreneurs play critical roles in cities and nations, they create new jobs, generate economic growth, and spread the development of new innovation. We hope the Partnership for Central America will serve as a model for Europe, Asia, and anywhere else where the root causes of large-scale migration must be addressed.

Javier Palomarez is the President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Business Council (USHBC), a 501(c)6 non-profit organization focusing on improving access to contracting in the public and private sector and fair representation of Hispanics in business, media, and politics.

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