Next time you eat food prepared by a Conexion Americas culinary entrepreneur, thank Randy Boyd for his $250,000 donation that helped expand the kitchen incubator program. When asked about his donation during a radio interview , Boyd gushed, “I’m all about supporting entrepreneurs and creating spaces for entrepreneurs.”
The Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), of which Boyd is a named member, last year issued a Tennessee report estimating that approximately 10,612 “undocumented entrepreneurs” in the state have started businesses:
Large numbers of undocumented immigrants in Tennessee have also managed to overcome licensing and financing obstacles to start small businesses. In 2014, an estimated 10.3 percent of the state’s working-age undocumented immigrants were selfemployed — meaning Tennessee was the unique state where unauthorized immigrants boasted higher rates of entrepreneurship than either legal permanent residents or immigrant citizens of the same age group. Almost 11,000 undocumented immigrants in Tennessee were self-employed in 2014, many providing jobs and economic opportunities to others in their community. Undocumented entrepreneurs in the state also earned an estimated $244.3 million in business income that year.
Boyd’s donation to Conexion Americas which renamed the space to “Conexion Americas Mesa Komal Kitchen & The Randy and Jenny Boyd Culinary Incubator,” reflects an alignment with the PNAE’s approach to legal immigrants and illegal aliens.
During his radio interview, Boyd inferred that he is okay with illegal aliens using the culinary incubator to start businesses when he compared it to policing dog parks:
We in Knox County can’t be policing our dog parks and make sure that only the people we think should use them use them.
Conexion’s co-founder and director, Renata Soto, confirmed that the immigration status of its kitchen entrepreneurs, is not relevant even though her Nashville organization provides services and advocacy for illegal aliens, consistent with the positions and goals of the National Council of La Raza (La Raza), an organization she currently leads as chairman of the board and of which Conexion is a named affiliate.
The PNAE report does not explain how illegal aliens in Tennessee get around licensing requirements and financing needs for business start-ups. However, stories of illegal aliens “making up a social security number” or using fake documents like forged green cards are not uncommon. A 2012 prosecution exposed the sale by a Tennessee DMV supervisor of state licenses and identification cards for resale to illegal aliens.
But federal tax identification numbers legally obtainable by illegal aliens can also get them a Tennessee business license.
Using documents like a birth certificate or a foreign identification document like a passport, illegal aliens can apply for a tax processing number called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) issued by the IRS to foreign nationals who do not have, or are not eligible to obtain a social security number.
An ITIN can be a valuable identifier to an illegal alien. In addition to paying taxes, it can be used to open a bank account, establish length of residency in the U.S., (useful in case an amnesty bill gets passed), and apply for certain federal cash programs like the Child Tax credit. For illegal alien entrepreneurs, the ITIN can be used to apply for a federal Employer Identification Number needed by most businesses to apply for a license in Tennessee.
As part of its entrepreneurship program, Conexion Americas offers “Negocio Próspero (Prosperous Business),” a Spanish language class for aspiring small business owners. In 2014, Conexion’s “Open Doors” class reached out to holders of an ITIN to help them buy a home with a loan secured through Conexion’s partnership with The Housing Fund.