A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket attempts to land on a barge off Cape Canaveral. Photo courtesy SpaceX

Last Wednesday afternoon, a booster rocket built in Los Angeles came very close to making the first return landing in history after lofting a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 booster tipped over after landing, but it’s another example of out-of-the-box thinking by entrepreneur Elon Musk, an immigrant from South Africa who has also turned the automotive world upside down with his Tesla electric cars.

Many of the most innovative new ideas in the world come out of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, and more often than not an immigrant is behind them.

Even the fracking revolution, which has made the U.S. the largest energy producer and forced Saudia Arabia into a price war, has an immigrant connection. George Mitchell, the father of fracking, is a first-generation American, born after his father arrived in Texas from Greece. The family name was changed to Mitchell from Paraskevopoulos.

Last week The Wall Street Journal profiled the man behind the revolution in consumer drones. Jordi Munoz from Ensenada developed the software eight years ago while waiting for his green card. Later he co-founded 3D Robotics, which employs 300 in San Diego and Berkeley and is the leader in the U.S. market.

At at time when American businesses face growing worldwide competition, it may be our country’s ability to attract and assimilate the best and brightest that gives us an edge. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich put it during a visit to San Diego last week, “America is an assimilation machine.”

Because the world’s youth are attracted to America, the nation’s demographics are promising. The United States is the only large, advanced country expected to have significant population growth in the coming decades. Our working-age population will be growing, while Europe, China, Russia and Japan face declines.

California is poised to benefit because it has the largest immigrant population in the United States, and has done the most to ease their way despite the logjam over immigration reform in Congress.

Last month state legislators introduced a package of 10 bills designed to make immigrants’ lives easier and protect them from the unscrupulous.

“With these bills California will again show the kind of practical, humane, and forward-thinking leadership that we hope can move the needle on the national discussion,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who represents the 78th District in San Diego.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Texas are trying to repeal the state’s 2001 Dream Act, which allows children of illegal immigrants to attend state colleges. Opponents say the law is an incentive for further immigration and thus must be repealed. The governor has said he will not stand in the way of repeal.

It’s a safe bet that America’s next George Mitchell, Jordi Munoz or Elon Musk will come from California, not Texas.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.