Category: Immigration Policy Center


How Does Immigration Really Affect the U.S. Economy?

February 5th, 2016 — 5:00pm

As of 2013, nearly 41 million immigrants live in the U.S., about 13 percent of the total population. Nearly 11 million of those individuals are undocumented. Through these immigrants, the U.S. is still a melting pot of ethnic and cultural diversity, while immigration itself remains a heated issue.

Debates on immigration often entail discussing the impact immigrants have on the U.S. economy. Increasingly, research finds that the economic impacts are positive.

Nearly 26 million foreign-born workers are in the U.S. labor force, including both lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and undocumented or unauthorized immigrants. Within the same workplace, it’s common for foreign-born workers to work side by side with native-born workers. These two groups tend to complement each other, rather than taking away jobs for native-born workers.

In 2013, Americas Society/Council of the Americas and the Fiscal Policy Institute reported that foreign-born workers made up 18 percent of overall U.S. business ownership, with 28 percent of Main Street business — such as grocery stores, restaurants and clothing stores — owned by foreign-born workers. These small businesses create jobs while serving their communities.

Many of the jobs employing foreign-born workers fall in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, where talent supply has not kept up with demand. With the unemployment rate in these fields so low, and the demand for STEM workers so high, employing foreign-born workers has little effect on the unemployment rate of native-born workers.

 Research finds that leveraging foreign-born workers in STEM fields tends to create jobs. A 2012 report from the Information Technology Industry Council, the Partnership for a New American Economy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that, “[E]very foreign-born student who graduates from a U.S. university with an advanced degree and stays to work in STEM has been shown to create on average 2.62 jobs for American workers — often because they help lead in innovation, research and development.”

In fact, 18 percent of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants. These companies, such as Verizon, Procter & Gamble, eBay, Google and Comcast, have generated nearly $2 trillion in annual revenue as of 2010, with 3.6 million workers worldwide.

Overall, foreign-born workers contribute positively to the U.S. economy, greatly outweighing the negatives cited by anti-immigration activists. Highly-educated immigrants create more jobs, often though their own companies, fueling economic growth that is sometimes overlooked during the heated immigration debate. With the push for comprehensive immigration reform growing stronger, the economic benefits speak volumes. As the nation moves forward from the Great Recession, let’s not lose sight of positive impacts on the economy — immigration included.

Comment » | Immigration Policy Center, Immigration reform

Visa Bulletin Fiasco

October 15th, 2015 — 9:03am

Over the past few weeks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keeps receiving flower deliveries at its offices. Each delivery bears a note reading, “Dear Honorable Jeh Johnson, DHS Visa Bulletin reversal has caused irreparable harm to our families. We ask you to not inflict injustice on us (legal immigrants) for no fault of ours. Please fix October Visa Bulletin. We wish you the very best.”

Many immigrants are sending the flowers to protest the October Visa Bulletin posted to the Department of State’s (DOS) website on Sept. 25. The bulletin contradicts an earlier Sept. 9 post stating that immigrants who had been waiting to file for the last step of the green card process — which allows for changing jobs and traveling outside the country — would be able to do so beginning in October.

For the thousands of immigrants waiting to get to this step of the process, the initial news was welcomed. Many of these immigrants waiting hold H-1B visas, the most common for highly skilled immigrant workers.

Just 16 days after the initial visa bulletin was posted, the DOS released a new bulletin stating that the prior bulletin contained an error, and the thousands of immigrants waiting were no longer eligible to file. To the many immigrants who have invested thousands of dollars in preparing their applications, the reversal was a giant blow. Now, they fall back into the green card backlog, which can equate to more waiting.

For the immigrants that are currently living here with H-1B visas, this was especially troublesome. These workers are typically highly skilled and work in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). The very concept of hiring these workers can cause a rift among Americans, but research has shown that these workers actually add more opportunities for native-born Americans. With that in mind, giving H-1B visa holders the opportunity to file for the last step of the green card process could open more doors for these workers, and by extension many Americans.

According to CNN.com, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry. While the court denied the plaintiff’s request for a temporary restraining order, the lawsuit is proceeding.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has called for Secretary Kerry, Secretary Johnson and Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House Cecilia Muñoz to reconsider their decision and restore the original Sept. 9 bulletin, citing the hardships these affected immigrants have faced and stressing that the revised process will create additional struggles.

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DHS/DOL Regulatory Agendas Hint at Obama’s Executive Action on Business Immigration

May 30th, 2015 — 10:05am

The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) are planning to issue regulations that implement aspects of President Barack Obama’s executive action on business immigration, including additional immigration avenues for foreign entrepreneurs, an overhaul of the permanent labor certification program (PERM), and expanded job mobility for certain I-140 beneficiaries waiting for their green cards.

According to DHS’s spring regulatory agenda, released May 21, the department is planning to issue a proposed rule in August that would allow foreign entrepreneurs to enter the U.S. via parole. The parole authority, contained in Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows for the admission of certain immigrants through other-than-normal channels if it would promote a “significant public benefit.”

DHS said the proposed rule would allow such admission, on a case-by-case basis, of “certain inventors, researchers, and entrepreneurs who will establish a U.S. start-up entity, and who have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting edge research.”

Under the proposed rule, the entrepreneur could be eligible for temporary parole into the U.S. based on “investment, job-creation, and other factors,” DHS said.

The proposed rule is one of several elements contained in the president’s executive action on immigration, announced in November. The action also suggested bringing in immigrant entrepreneurs through the national interest waiver process—which allows such immigrants to be awarded green cards without going through the labor certification process—but that doesn’t appear in the current regulatory agenda.

Job Mobility for I-140 Beneficiaries

Another aspect of the executive action that is contained in the regulatory agenda is the planned October release of a proposed rule that would provide certain benefits to the beneficiaries of approved I-140 immigrant petitions for an alien worker.

DHS said the proposed rule would allow certain I-140 beneficiaries to obtain work authorization while awaiting their green cards and “remove unnecessary restrictions on the ability to change jobs or progress in careers, as well as provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.” It also would clarify the meaning of “portable work authorization,” the department said.

The DHS regulatory agenda also includes a proposed rule, planned for August, that would expand optional practical training for foreign graduates with science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees.

DHS did not describe what that expansion would entail, but a memorandum from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued as part of the president’s executive action called for an expansion of the degree programs eligible for OPT as well as the length of time foreign graduates can work in the U.S. in OPT status. Johnson’s memo also stated that the OPT program should require stronger ties to degree-granting institutions and should include labor market protections to prevent the displacement of U.S. workers.  The DHS regulatory agenda also would allow the 17-month OPT extension for STEM degrees to apply to prior or most recent degrees.

PERM Overhaul in the Works

New to the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda is a proposed rule, slated for release in December, that would overhaul the permanent labor certification program. The action also was announced as part of the president’s executive action.

DOL said the department hasn’t “comprehensively examined and modified” PERM in 10 years, and “much has changed in our country’s economy, affecting employers’ demand for workers and the availability of a qualified domestic labor force.” Furthermore, the DOL said, technological advancements “have dramatically altered common industry recruitment practices, and the Department has received ongoing feedback that the existing regulatory requirements governing the PERM process frequently do not align with worker or industry needs and practices.”

The proposed rule therefore is intended to “consider options to modernize the PERM program” to make it “more responsive to changes in the national workforce, to further align the program design with the objectives of the U.S. immigration system and needs of workers and employers, and to enhance the integrity of the labor certification process,” DOL said.

 

 

Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

Immigration Inaction: What Congressional Gridlock Means for Immigration Reform

March 26th, 2015 — 5:00pm

Last November, Obama exercised executive action to create substantial changes to the immigration system and enforcement, extending protection from deportation to over four million undocumented immigrants, expanding legal immigration of skilled workers, and providing temporary deportation relief to immigrants meeting certain criteria.

While the Obama Administration and other Democrats are attempting to give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, beginning with deferred action, ultimately, only Congress can decide who should qualify for legal status.

Congressional Republicans set the stage for a massive showdown over the President’s immigration action last December. When striking a deal to authorize federal spending, Congress extended the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) funding through March of 2015, despite extending funding for most other departments through September of 2015. By cutting off the DHS’ funding in March, it provided Republicans with the opportunity to use the nation’s border and homeland security as a political tool to prevent the implementation of the President’s executive actions on immigration.

Ultimately, the Republican-controlled Congress sent legislation to Obama funding DHS without the immigration-related concessions they had demanded, avoiding the potential, partial shutdown of DHS. This decision was, in part, due to the Homeland Security Department’s anti-terrorism responsibilities. It would be hypocritical of the Republican party to support the fight against terrorism abroad, while not funding our homeland security efforts just to make a political point.

At the same time, presidential hopefuls aren’t offering many ideas, choosing to focus on enforcement and border security rather than real reform. At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the general consensus among candidates, often contradicting past views, was that an enforcement-first approach must be taken on immigration policy: no comprehensive reform makes sense without first securing the border. Yet none have defined what a secure border looks like.

Most Americans understand the importance of an improved immigration system, and our economy only benefits from creating employment opportunities for highly skilled immigrants and other immigrant workers. Sadly, Congress lags far behind public opinion in the importance of moving forward on immigration reform.

 

Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

The Benefits of Obama’s Executive Action

December 5th, 2014 — 5:43pm

What’s the Plan?

On November 20th, 2014, President Obama finally announced his plans for executive action on immigration reform. While it’s only a temporary solution to a long-term problem, it will help almost half of all undocumented immigrants gain official status — nearly five million people.

President Obama’s plan extends the temporary relief from deportation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. In order to temporarily stay in the U.S. for 3 years, qualified individuals will have pass a background test and pay any back taxes. The plan also moves the window to include even more DREAMERs.

Who Benefits

The most obvious benefit will be improved quality of life for many undocumented immigrants. Moving from the shadows and into a fully recognized status can mean more opportunities, more work, and greater stability for their families. Also, many currently working in the gray economy will see an increase in wages.

That will also result in increased tax revenue for the U.S. Previously, only a third of undocumented workers and the people that employed them paid payroll taxes. Now, with official status, we can expect to see an increase in the gross domestic product up to .9% (nearly $210 billion over 10 years). The first year alone will net the federal government $3 billion.

But what about the “increased competition” for low-wage work? Many experts believe that the plan will lead to an increased average wage of about .3%. While not much, it’s certainly not the fall in wages that most opponents of immigration reform expect. And now that nearly one half of undocumented immigrants will compete on an even playing field with citizens, there won’t be such a large potential source of below-minimum-wage labor. Many companies have been asking for reform like this for quite a while.

Who Doesn’t Benefit

President Obama’s plan leaves some immigrants undocumented and negatively impacts at least one industry.

First, undocumented immigrants who arrived within the last five years don’t qualify. This means that over 10,000 Central Americans who have fled the violence in their countries since 2010 will remain undocumented for the time being.

Second, the private prison industry will lose out on the massive amounts of detainees awaiting deportation. While it’s unfortunate that an industry will take a hit as a result of the president’s actions, fewer detainees is generally a good thing.

Why It’s Good For Us

The President’s plan is certainly the temporary help that many both citizens and undocumented immigrants need — it’s just not the overarching reform that the U.S. desperately needs. While critics have found way to admonish the President, ImmigrationPolicy.org notes that every president since Eisenhower has executed similar executive actions for certain groups on immigrants. With nearly 39 examples, executive action for immigrants is essentially a Presidential precedent at this point.

Hopefully this plan will push Congress to finally bring meaningful reform when they see how much it helps immigrants, citizens and businesses all over the U.S.

 

Comment » | Immigration Policy Center, Immigration reform

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