Reform Immigration Laws & Help Our Economy

zuckerberg-01Have you used Google today? Made a call with your iPhone? Picked up some building supplies from Home Depot?
If so, thank an immigrant. These companies, and many others, were founded or co-founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.
Today the immigration debate is largely focused on unskilled immigrants from Central America. But the immigration issue is far larger than that.
Take high-skilled immigrants, for instance. These are foreign workers with highly desirable knowledge and skills. They want to come to America and enrich our economy (and themselves). You would think that it would be a no-brainer to let these people into the country. Too often, however, our short-sighted federal immigration policy keeps them from coming here.
If you think it’s easy to immigrate to the U.S., think again. Many types of foreigners, such as unskilled workers, have virtually no way to legally come here. Others, such as skilled workers, face long wait times, miles of red tape, and significant expenses. Check out this chart from Reason to see the byzantine system these immigrants face.
One industry that would benefit greatly if our laws let in more skilled immigrants is the high-tech sector. Its business leaders are mystified at the current U.S. immigration policy. Here’s what Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had to say about it:

Why do we kick out the more than 40% of math and science graduate students who are not U.S. citizens after educating them? Why do we offer so few H-1B visas for talented specialists that the supply runs out within days of becoming available each year, even though we know each of these jobs will create two or three more American jobs in return?”

As Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explains, an immigration system designed to help the American economy would look very different:

America’s goal should be an immigration policy that fosters economic growth. That requires finding a way to allow people who want to work here to come legally. Since most immigrants’ skills are complements to the skills of native-born Americans, this would increase the efficiency of our economy and create jobs for native-born Americans. With our economy in a slow process of recovery, we should be giving visas to those with innovative ideas who can help move our economy forward. This would prevent offshoring of American jobs and keep job growth here at home.

Reforming our immigration laws along these lines would not only help Silicon Valley, it would also help states like Arkansas. There is an emerging biotech sector in the state that would benefit greatly from highly-skilled immigrants. This would create jobs here, support the state’s agriculture industry, and provide more products for our state’s businesses to sell to overseas consumers.
Unfortunately, outdated federal immigration laws are hurting the ability of immigrants to grow the economy of Arkansas and our nation. It’s time for our lawmakers in Washington to look at a less burdensome, more pro-growth immigration policy.
P.S. Immigration reform is one of the “Three Big Ideas” that we’ll discuss at our forum at noon this Friday. Interesting speakers, big ideas, a free lunch: what more can you ask for? Click here to get more details and to register – we hope to see you on Friday!

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