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Mayors' Study Calls for Visa Reforms

More Immigrants Needed To Stimulate U.S. Economy and Create Jobs


The Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group of U.S. mayors, released a report in May that showed immigrants with degrees increase the job opportunities for U.S. citizens and help expand the nation’s economy.

The findings refute arguments from anti-immigration activists and conservatives such as Tea Party members that immigrants take jobs from American workers.

The mayors’ study reported four important findings:

  • Immigrants with advanced degrees boost employment levels and stimulate entrepreneurship.

  • Temporary foreign workers also boost overall employment and help grow the economy. For example, every farm worker hired has been shown to create about three American jobs.

  • Overall, it is a myth and a political distortion that immigrants take U.S. citizens’ jobs.

  • And contrary to popular perceptions, foreign-born workers pay more in taxes than they receive in government benefits. In other words, they pay their own way.

    The study points to the paradox that the United States, a nation of immigrants that was built by immigrants, has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to immigration policy. Instead of using immigration policy as a tool to expand the economy and stimulate growth, U.S. policy has become a drag on prosperity.

    “For the past two centuries, immigrants coming to America in search of a better life for themselves and their families have fueled the growth and expansion of the U.S. economy,” the study says. “The United States was built by immigrants, and continues to be built by immigrants. Today, more than 40 percent of America’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant.

    “In recent years, however, U.S. immigration laws have failed to keep pace with the country’s changing economic needs.”

    The report is especially critical of U.S. policy failures in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Many talented immigrants in science and technology are forced out of the country when they should be kept here to fill the needs of American business.

    Too often, high-achieving immigrants come here, attend college and earn their degrees then are forced to return to their homelands to work and start businesses. The study says the United States has to do a better job of keeping the immigrants it educates.

    The study also points to the aging U.S. population, a demographic change that only will exacerbate the shortage of qualified workers, especially in technical fields. As the Baby Boomers move to retirement, the role of immigrant labor will become more essential.

    By 2018, the median age of U.S. workers is projected to be 22% higher than it was in 1978, according to Census Bureau data. The report says that in the science and engineering fields, the median age of workers rose by four years between 1993 and 2008 alone, from 37 to 41 years.

    The study offers a number of recommendations to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, among them:

  • Prioritize economic over political goals by providing a high percentage of visas based on economic reasons.

  • Compete for highly-educated labor by designing fast-track permanent visas for immigrants with advanced degrees, especially those in STEM fields.

  • Tailor visas to specific sectors and regions of the country by allowing local governments to determine their immigration needs.

  • Expedite visa processing and investing in customer service to streamline applications. Offer language classes to help immigrants assimilate.

  • Tap into the international student pipeline by creating visas specifically designed to keep foreign students already earning advanced degrees from U.S. universities.

  • Compete for entrepreneurs and investors by creating a new range of visas designed to attract people ready to start businesses.

  • Recruit expatriate talent by giving tax incentives and bonuses to native-born scientists and business leaders to return to the United States and work here.

    The report concludes that too often today, U.S. immigration policy is simply self-defeating.

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