Although most Americans believe that immigration reform helps new immigrants make their way into the U.S. and take jobs away from native Americans, this view doesn’t might well not be true. President Obama is using his Executive powers to bypass Congress and help about 5 million undocumented workers. How will this action work and who will it help or hurt?
Hiring Undocumented Workers for Low-Paying Jobs
Politicians on all sides continually complain that the U.S. immigration system is broken. What broken means depends on who is pontificating. Many politicians focus on the 5 million undocumented workers that are in this country without permission. They are used by unethical employers who pay them far less than the legal wage, put the workers in unsafe working conditions and generally treat them like slave labor.
Currently, the big winner is U.S. businesses such as construction, agriculture and jobs that are dangerous and low paying. These jobs are usually not wanted by native Americans. It is not only that the jobs pay poorly, but the working conditions are untenable. It is now easy to check the documentation status of workers and no excuse for employers who say the “don’t know” about the work status of their employees. These job sites are sometimes raided by American ICE agents. The employers are the only ones who win in this situation.
While their “illegal” workers are usually deported, when the system works the way it should, the employers are hit with crippling fines. The purpose is that the penalties are so severe that it won’t be worth taking the chance of ever hiring undocumented workers.
The U.S. Economy Wins Big on High-Skilled Immigrants
The President has directed the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to first make clear the standards for granting permanent residence, or “green cards,” to employees whose work would qualify those workers whose labor is for the “benefit of the U.S. economy.” Second, he wishes to create a program to grant temporary admission for persons whose work is “for the benefit of the national economy.” This group includes inventors, founders of start-up businesses and researchers — high-stakes talent, in other words.
The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that these initiatives will result in 100,000 more entrepreneurial visas over a period of ten years and a long overdue national immigration policy. This country has long benefited greatly from the immigration of those inventive entrepreneurs. Just look at Alexander Graham Bell. He came to the U.S. from Scotland. He had the brain power to hold 18 patents, including the telephone and work with the deaf and the U.S. had the economic support he needed to make his work come true.
There are hundreds of highly skilled newcomers to the U.S. whose work benefits our economy and whose work creates employment of tens of thousands of our citizens at excellent salaries and desirable working conditions.
How Immigration Has Historically Benefited the U.S.
That is the magic of the United States. Those like Bell are found in each generation. Where they end up, which country will court and win their favor, will decide which country will win the scientific and economic sweepstakes. Most politicians and citizens realize that our country is infinitely stronger by attracting and keeping that kind of brain power.
A 2003 National Survey of College Graduates showed that immigrants hold patents at double the native rate. This is felt to be due to their disproportionate holding of degrees in science and engineering. Until the U.S. strengthens their science and engineering education both in high schools and colleges, we will depend on immigrants to keep the U.S. in the race for science and engineering knowledge and development.
The Council of Economic Advisors believes that the initiatives that are being developed for talented immigrants who hold degrees in needed fields might end up creating as many as 100,000 new entrepreneurial visas over the next decade. Whether this comes true depends on citizens realizing what the stakes are in the U.S. and whether U.S. politicians find the courage to take action.
Legislating immigration policies requires forward thinking and the ability to tap into the economic power of citizens of the world.