Foreign-born workers drive innovation, create jobs, and could play a large role in reviving the struggling U.S. economy. However, during last night’s presidential debate, foreign workers were persona non grata as President Obama and Governor Romney sparred over job creation and the way forward for job creation.
Both candidates missed the mark. For the first time in the 2012 presidential debates series, the nominees had the chance to espouse their views of and strategies for immigration reform. The candidates discussed the important issues of the many undocumented immigrants in the U.S., the DREAMers, and agreed that our immigration system is “broken.” Both men also pledged to work hard to fix the system if elected. However, neither seized on the enormous potential of a foreign-born workforce as a driver of job creation, and the important role immigration reform could play in the economic recovery.
A 2012 study by the American Enterprise Institute confirmed this non-controversial assertion. The study contains four principal conclusions:
1-Immigrants who hold advanced degrees create jobs for native-born workers. According to the study, “data comparing employment among the fifty states and the District of Columbia show that from 2000 – 2007, an additional 100 foreign-born workers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields with advanced degrees from U.S. universities is associated with an additional 262 jobs among U.S. natives.”
2-The H-1B program is a job creator. “States with greater numbers of temporary workers in the H-1B program for skilled workers . . . had higher employment among U.S. natives.” The report indicated that the addition of 100 H-1B workers was associated with an additional 183 jobs for native-born workers.
3-Immigrants pay taxes, thereby contributing to federal revenue and reducing the federal deficit. “In 2009, the average foreign-born adult with an advanced degree paid over $22,500 in taxes while they received benefits one-tenth that size.”
4-Both highly skilled and less-skilled temporary workers create U.S. jobs. The argument that foreign-workers take U.S. jobs is simply not true. According to the report’s author, “[e]ven under the current immigration pattern—which is not designed to maximize job creation . . . there is no statistically significant effect . . . on the unemployment rate among U.S. natives.”
It was encouraging to hear the presidential candidates discuss the need for reform of the U.S. immigration system. However, in discussing the way forward on immigration policy, it’s time we recognize the potential of immigration reform as a way to create jobs and investment or face the consequences of an estimated multi-trillion dollar loss of investment! On this front there is no debate, and it’s time to unleash the job creating power of a foreign-born workforce—even if, in doing so, Governor Romney wants to take away my job.