Nobels for Immigrants

November 1st, 2016

Immigration has always been a polemic issue in the United States, but 2016 in particular has been especially polarizing. Currently, there are 42.4 million immigrants living in the United States, with about 26.3 million in the workforce.

With this kind of growth in population, it’s only natural that the talent pool in the United States continues to grow. In fact, all one needs to do is look at the 2016 American Nobel Prize winners to see this point illustrated.

Being awarded a Nobel Prize is one of the ultimate accomplishments for those working to advance physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature and peace. In 2016, six Nobel Prizes were awarded to American Laureates in areas of chemistry, physics and economics. This is a groundbreaking year for Americans, as the six winners are immigrants.

What makes these Nobel Prize winners stand out is that they are prime examples of how beneficial immigrants are to the United States. In an increasingly global world, science and technology cross borders. As Scottish-born Nobel Laureate Sir J. Fraser explained, “Science is global…the American scientific establishment would only remain strong ‘As long as we don’t enter an era where we turn our back on immigration.’”

This sentiment rings true in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, where the demand for workers is growing faster than the number of people filling these positions. Each year, thousands of immigrants apply for H-1B visas, hoping to be selected to work in the U.S. Many of these applicants are looking for jobs in STEM fields, thus complementing native-born workers.

A Twitter campaign “#TellAmericaItsGreat” led by Canadians has been gaining popularity after Canadian users began tweeting out everything that already make America great, such as the invention of the Internet. What really continues to make America great is its immigrant population, especially when working alongside natural-born workers.

Immigrants built the Unites States as we know it, and history has shown repeatedly the kinds of accomplishments and innovations that immigrants are capable of. Through comprehensive immigration reform, this kind of greatness would not be an isolated incident, but rather become the new norm.

Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

Why Restricting Immigration Won’t Improve Work Opportunities for Native-Born Workers

October 4th, 2016

There are over 42.4 million immigrants currently residing in the United States. Of this number, about 26.3 million are members of the workforce, or nearly 17 percent of total U.S. employment. Some argue that native-born workers are losing employment opportunities due to the large number of immigrant workers, and are in favor of more restrictive immigration policies. But how would this actually affect employment for native-born workers?


In 2015, the overall unemployment rate for native-born workers (5.4 percent) was higher than that of foreign-born workers (4.9 percent). While these numbers may seem causal, many more native-born workers are leaving the labor force due to schooling, retirement or disability than their immigrant counterparts.


According to a 2015 Labor Force Characteristics Survey, competition between native- and foreign-born workers in the job market is low. Variables such as education level and where in the country immigrant workers reside affect the types of jobs they have, with many finding opportunities in industries with lower wages and fewer skills required.


Immigrant workers in more skilled positions tend to create more opportunities for native-born workers than is often assumed. The Americas Society/Council of the Americas and the Fiscal Policy Institute reported in 2013 that 18 percent of overall U.S. business ownership was made up of foreign-born workers, with another 18 percent of all Fortune 500 companies being founded by immigrants.


This means that immigrants are creating more potential jobs for native-born workers. One example of this is that for every foreign-born worker in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, about 2.62 jobs for native workers are created, thus helping to refuel the economy and boost native employment.


By adding all of these factors together, it is clear that native-born workers would not benefit from the U.S. limiting the amount of immigrants allowed into the country. Through comprehensive immigration reform, both native- and foreign-born workers can benefit from more job opportunities across the board and continue contributing to our economic growth.

Comment » | Immigration Policy Center, Immigration reform

Economic Enhancement: How Immigration Expands the U.S. Economy

July 26th, 2016

Lower wages and native-born worker unemployment are not synonymous with immigration. More Americans are focusing on this topic as the early rounds of the 2016 presidential race included more in-depth discussion of immigration reform and the economic value immigrants provide. Regardless of the debates, immigrants are helping expand the economy to complement American workers in many sectors of the work force.

 In a recent Bipartisan Policy Center report, Culprit or Scapegoat? Immigration’s Effect on Employment and Wages, Kenneth Megan and Theresa Cardinal Brown lay out causes for native-born worker unemployment. They also examine how employment requirements differ among native- and foreign-born workers. Megan and Cardinal Brown found that many native-born workers are leaving the workforce not because of competition with foreign workers based on lower wages, but by their own choices and/or circumstances including retirement, disability or furthering their education.

Industries with lower paying, less-skilled jobs tend to attract more foreign-born workers than industries requiring more sophisticated skills. Without foreign-born workers filling these positions, economic growth would be limited it is far less likely that native-born workers would take jobs with lower wages such as these. This is especially true in cases where native-born workers are more educated.

 Foreign-born workers with higher levels of education, namely in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, find themselves competing with native-born workers for jobs. Since foreign-born workers must be sponsored by an employer to work in the U.S., obtaining STEM jobs can be more difficult. Every year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows businesses to file for H-1B visas for specialty occupation (professional) workers. The cap per year is 65,000 for workers with a bachelor’s degree, with 20,000 slots for those with advanced U.S. degrees. In recent years, the application quota has been filled in a matter of days, putting the foreign workers into a high-stakes lottery.

Some falsely assume that native-born workers lose employment opportunities to their foreign-born counterparts. In fact, employing high-skilled, foreign-born workers alongside native-born workers in STEM fields helps create more jobs. In these industries, the demand for highly-skilled employees is greater than the supply of native-born workers. Thus, employing more foreign-born workers helps to fill these gaps, leading to more productivity, higher wages and job growth.

Nearly 26 million immigrants are in the U.S. labor force. This includes both lawful permanent residents and undocumented immigrants.

Research confirms that employing immigrant workers helps the economy, and debunks the myth that immigration hinders job growth. Without immigrant members of the labor force, the U.S. economy would suffer with unfilled positions in lower-paying segments and less job creation from immigrant business owners. Enacting comprehensive immigration reform will help expand and enhance our economy even further through strong job creation.


Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

Two Lawsuits Challenge the Government’s H-1B Lottery System

June 16th, 2016

Recently, two lawsuits have been filed in federal district court challenging various aspects of the H-1B lottery system. The first case is a class action filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon against USCIS and alleges that the randomized lottery system used to select a limited number of H-1B petitions for processing is “arbitrary and capricious.” The suit asks the court to hold unlawful and set aside USCIS’s regulations that require H-1B petitions to be filed during a five-day filing window and subjecting them to a random lottery in which losing lottery filings are rejected and not assigned a priority date. The case asserts that USCIS should be issuing receipts and priority dates for all cases because there is no statutory basis for the agency to require a filing window, a random lottery, and a rejection system. Indeed, the plain language of the statute requires that H-1B petitions be processed in the order in which petitions are filed. Plaintiffs argue that an orderly priority date assignment system and waiting list should be established similar to the system in place for immigrant visa petitions. The current regulatory system results, says plaintiffs, in a potentially never-ending game of chance for petitions filed during the window each year, with some unlucky individuals trying and failing each year to obtain an H-1B number, while some lucky lottery winners obtain a visa number in the very first year a petition is filed on their behalf. The plaintiffs ask the court to order defendants (USCIS) to assign priority dates to improperly rejected H-1B petitions that are resubmitted for acceptance by members of the class; order USCIS to accept H-1B petitions throughout the year and assign priority dates; and make H-1B numbers available based on the order in which they are received. In the past four years, almost 500,000 cases have been rejected.


The second lawsuit filed against DHS and USCIS seeks declaratory, injunctive, and other appropriate relief under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information so that the public has a clear understanding of USCIS operating procedures and policies when administering the H-1B lottery. The suit was filed by a private law firm, the American Immigration Council (Council), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). It alleges that USCIS has never been forthcoming in describing the selection process. The suit is intended to let the American public and those most directly affected see how the lottery system works from start to finish, in order to learn whether the system is operating fairly. Despite the government’s stated commitment to transparency and accountability, prior attempts to learn more about how the H-1B lottery process is conducted have been resisted.

Comment » | H-1B

Our Dysfunctional H-1B Lottery

April 29th, 2016

April 1 marks the beginning of the H-1B visa application process, when U.S. companies apply for non-immigrant visas to hire high-skilled foreign workers in specialized fields. For the fourth year in a row, the cap for visa petitions was reached in just a few days’ time, with the window for FY17 applications reaching capacity on April 7.

Each year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) limits H-1B acceptances to 65,000 for skilled foreign workers who hold at least a bachelor’s degree and 20,000 for workers with a master’s degree or higher. Once the combined 85,000 cap is reached, the applications are put into a computerized lottery, their fate completely out of applicants’ hands.

In 2016, nearly 236,000 H-1B applications were submitted — 3,000 more than 2015 and significantly more than the 72,500 in 2014. This push shows the demand for foreign workers is continually increasing, with the growing tech industry generating some of the highest demand.

Contrary to popular belief, employing foreign-born workers alongside native workers could actually increase the total number of jobs in the U.S., with job creation steadily rising as more foreign workers are allowed in the country. This, in turn, may increase the GDP significantly over the next two decades.

To fully reap the projected economic benefits, the process must be changed. The current H-1B application process is grossly outdated, relatively unchanged for nearly 20 years. Without a green card, foreign workers can find it difficult to accept a promotion or change employers.

Updated regulations and a higher cap for applications are just a few ways the H-1B visa program can begin to improve the lives of the foreign workers hoping to find specialized jobs in the U.S. However, comprehensive immigration reform helps the U.S. benefit from these workers — and fuel greater economic growth beyond the H-1B program

Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

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