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Report Contends Irrational and Undirected Immigration Polices Hurt U.S. Competitiveness

June 06, 2012

U.S. immigration policies are irrational and undirected according to a new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy and Partnership for New York City — Not Coming To America: Why the U.S. is Falling Behind in the Global Race for Talent. In sharp contrast, to attract immigrants that drive economic growth and increase international competitiveness, foreign countries have adopted targeted and strategic policies that include:

  • Prioritizing economic goals in immigration policy by providing a high percentage of visas based on economic reasons;
  • Competing to lure highly educated labor by designing fast-track permanent visas for immigrants with advanced degrees, especially those in STEM fields;
  • Tailoring visas to specific sectors and regions in the country by allowing local regions to determine their immigration needs and tailor programs accordingly;
  • Expediting processing and facilitating integration by investing in customer service, faster processing and language classes to help new immigrants integrate;
  • Tapping the international student pipeline by creating visas to keep foreign students earning advanced degrees from their universities;
  • Competing for entrepreneurs and investors by establishing new visas designed to attract entrepreneurs with business ideas and investors with assets;
  • Recruiting expatriate talent by persuading native-born scientists and business leaders to return with offers of bonuses, free housing, tax incentives and more; and,
  • Adapting to changing conditions by making major changes or adding new programs to meet economic needs.

Although these competitors have repeatedly adjusted their respective immigrations systems to meet economic needs, this comparative study of national immigration policies found that the basic policy framework governing immigration in the U.S. has remained unchanged for nearly fifty years and turns away high- and low-skilled workers. If the U.S. does not reform its immigration laws, the report contends the economy faces three major risks:

  • Shortage of workers in innovation industries — Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are increasing three times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy, but U.S. students are not entering these innovative fields in sufficient numbers. As a result, by 2018, the U.S. will face a projected shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree STEM workers.
  • Shortage of young workers — The U.S. labor force has slowed to historic lows of less than 1 percent. Without dramatically increasing productivity or welcoming more working age immigrants, the U.S. cannot continue to produce the GDP growth the nation has come to expect.
  • A stalled economy — The U.S. has faced years of stunted economic growth. History shows that new businesses are the biggest drivers of job creation. However, Census data show that the number of business startups has hit a record low.

To address these risks, the report details six reforms to U.S. immigration policy that will attract the most talented and innovative workers and boost the nation's economy:

  • Provide visas to the STEM graduates educated in American universities;
  • Award more green cards based on economic needs;
  • Create a visa program to allow foreign entrepreneurs to build their firms in the U.S.;
  • Let American companies hire the highly educated workers they need;
  • Give seasonal and labor-intensive industries access to foreign workers when they cannot find Americans to fill jobs; and,
  • Allow local governments to recruit more immigrants to meet regional needs.

Read the report...

entrepreneurship, stem, workforce, policy recommendations