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Economically speaking: A case for immigration reform

Drew Becker
Staff Writer

A country may historically, and still today, once be called the “melting pot”. Our country, however, has become much less of a melting pot, and more of a covered cauldron. Unfortunately, for U.S. citizens and potential immigrants alike, the United States’ current immigration plan is outdated and frankly unfair.

Let me note that I am speaking solely of legal immigration. Although I do believe we have an illegal immigration issue that needs dealt with, that is an entirely different debate. Legal immigration can, and would, place highly-skilled immigrants in America. These immigrants are not only creating enormous value for the organizations that potentially employ them, but also create a ripple effect in the economy. These workers are a part of the economy spending their earnings on American goods and create value for their firms. Conservative estimates place each highly-skilled immigrant worker at creating five new jobs elsewhere in the economy!

Currently, many United States organizations are stuck placing their R&D and other highly skilled sectors of their organizations in Canada. According to Canadian government, they allowed 260,900 legal immigrants to become citizens in their county last year, 63% of them being solely for economic reasons. The United States, however, allows only 85,000 to enter the country on H-1B visas. These visas last only three years, although they can be renewed for another three years if there are no guarantees thereafter of further residency.

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Many argue that other countries are simply using our system to churn out new graduates only to pull them back to their homelands after their crucial introductory years to the industry. Those opponents must remember that our system boots highly successful, skilled, productive members out of the country by law when their visas expire.

Immigration-cartoonThe United States did, however, give citizenship to 1.03 million “new legal permanent residents” in 2012. This sounds like a large number, except that our current system grants citizenship to immigrants with relatives that many times are non-nuclear extended relatives. Numbersusa, an education and research foundation, reports that “fewer than 10 percent of annual admissions are based on job skills.” This amounts to just 103,000 immigrants given citizenship because of their skills. Canada therefore granted citizenship to over one and a half times more based upon economic reasons. Understanding the magnitude of this statistic requires one to realize the United States boasts a population nine times larger.

Opponents also argue that allowing more legal immigration will cause an even higher unemployment rate, effectively punishing United States citizens with advanced degrees and/or skills; this is simply untrue. The unemployment rate in 2013 for those with a Bachelor’s degree was just 4%, just 3.4%, 2.3%, and 2.2% for holders of a Master’s degree, Professional degree, and Doctoral degree, respectively. These unemployment rates are near the natural rate of employment, which is the unemployment rate during economic expansion.

Furthermore, this day in age, in a period of expanding globalization, has made it nearly ubiquitous of where your employee works in many industries. These highly-skilled workers would predominately work for these industries, and is why we have seen moves from organizations like Microsoft to open development centers in Canada. Microsoft exquisitely pointed to the fact of them building this development center there because of “immigration issues in the U.S.”

After a realization of only the surface facts of this issue, it is evident that the United States must focus more on granting permanent citizenship to skilled individuals. If the United States decides to continue their outdated policies, we will continue to lose the ability to attract highly-skilled potential immigrants to our communities. A change will allow these individuals, and all of the benefits they bring to a community, to create a stronger United States economy.