The Immigration Policy Center released a report titled “Rebooting the American Dream; the Role of Immigration in a 21st Century Economy.” This report discusses the current problems with our immigration system and also well documents the positive impacts both employment based immigration and family based immigration have on the American economy. Regarding the need to fix our current immigration system, the report is particularly enlightening. Significant changes to our immigration system have not been made since 1990 when the immigration act of 1990 create the five tiered employment based immigration system and also instilled the current numerical limits. The entire immigration system has not been overhauled since 1965. The fact that no significant changes have been made since 1990 is particularly concerning considering the drastic economic changes to our economy since that time. From the high tech bubble that began in 1999 to the deep recession we currently find ourselves in, it is striking that our immigration system has not addressed these changes. Our current employment based immigration system allows for 140,000 immigrants annually. Included within this number are the immigrant’s eligible spouses and minor children. Consequently the actual number of workers receiving green cards is much lower than 140,000. Because of numerical limitations, many foreign workers have to wait up to ten years or more before receiving their green card. More than one million high skilled immigrants are currently awaiting employment based green cards. Currently, demand for highly skilled workers not only outstrips the supply of employment based immigrant visas, but the current broken system makes it very difficult for skilled workers to immigrate to this country. These problems are resulting in many skilled immigrants evaluating new options for their long term residences. Many countries are also changing their own immigration laws so that they can more effectively compete with other countries with attracting the most highly skilled workers throughout the globe. Countries such as China and India which have historically produced some of the highest numbers of skilled immigrant workers, are now much more actively putting into place domestic policies to retain their talented citizens. These new policies have resulted in an increased number of Chinese and Indian nationals who have studied in the U.S. returning to their home countries. This has also resulted in greater retention of these highly skilled workers in the first place. In a recent study where many foreign students were interviewed at American universities, only 6% of Indians and 10% of Chinese students said they plan to remain in the U.S. Three quarters of these students said they feared they would not receive longer term visas. Resultantly, the U.S. is experiencing a brain drain of talented foreign skilled workers for the first time in our history. Talented immigrants are also returning to their home countries in greater numbers to found companies there, when historically many of these immigrants chose to found their new companies in the United States. Research has revealed that the broken immigrating system is part of the reason many of these workers are returning home for their entrepreneurial pursuits.
The report also clearly discusses the positive effect immigrant labor has on the U.S. economy. U.S. cities with higher immigration rates have experienced greater economic growth than those cities without high immigration rates. From 1990 to 2006, Phoenix, Dallas, and Houston experienced the fastest growth of immigrant labor in their workforce and these cities also had above average economic growth. In contrast, the slowest growing U.S. cities, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, had the smallest increases in immigrant labor. It is also a proven fact that most immigrant labor compliments the U.S. workforce rather than replaces U.S. workers. Immigrant labor is concentrated on the two ends of our workforce spectrum. These workers tend to fill positions at the bottom of the educational skill or at the top of the educational skill while in contrast Americans tend to fall somewhere in the middle. By complimenting and filling the gaps in the U.S. labor workforce, immigrant labor spurs economic growth. In the high tech and scientific fields, immigrant labor is playing a particularly important role. A December 2008 study released by the Harvard business school showed that 50% of scientists and engineers with doctorate degrees are immigrants and they account for a 67%increase in the United States science and engineering workforce between 19995 and 2006. The report also shows that immigrant labor has a net positive effect on wages of U.S. born workers and that the H-1B program results in job growth for all workers in the American economy. According to a report by the National Foundation of American Policy, for every one H-1B position requested, U.S. technology companies are employing five more workers in the following year. Consequently, the ability to hire temporary skilled workers through the H-1B program allows spurs overall job growth for U.S. companies.
The report also highlights a very important role of immigrant labor. Because of the aging baby boom population, there will an insufficient amount of U.S. workers to replace this aging population. If this shortfall is not addressed by foreign workers, there will be a fiscal crisis both with social security and Medicare. Consequently, an immigrant workforce is critical in addressing our labor shortfall that will result with the aging of the baby boomers. To understand the scope of this problem, between 2010 and 2030 the ratio of seniors “65 and up” to working age adults “25 to 64” will soar by 67%.
The report also highlights how important immigrant workers are to innovation and entrepreneurship. A June 2011 report from the partnership for a new American economy found that more than 40% of the 2010 fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. Various reports show that immigrants are far more likely to found successful companies than U.S. born workers. This is particularly true in the high tech industries. The report also shows that immigrants are three times more likely to file patents in the U.S. than U.S. born citizens. This is the result of a disproportionally higher percentage of foreign degree holders in science and engineering than U.S. degree holders. To review the report in its entirety, go to the link below: