BY CHARLES H. KUCK*
Does Congress’s continued failure to fix our broken employment-based immigration system jeopardize our economy, now and in the future? Yes, it does. If we don’t have enough employment-based immigrant visas, the best and brightest from around the world will start going somewhere else. We are not only a nation of immigrants; we are a nation of successful immigrants. We attract those who are willing to work hard, better themselves, and strive for success. However, our legal immigration system has made the process of immigration to the United States so difficult, so full of uncertainty, and so lengthy, that folks are now choosing not to come.
We know the following things to be true:
- Legal immigrants in the workplace increase the average salary of U.S. Citizens.
- More than 50% of companies in Silicon Valley were founded by legal immigrants (not to mention thousands of other successful companies in hundreds of other cities around the United States.)
- Immigrants’ entrepreneurial activity often outpaces that of native born citizens.
- A large percentage of our graduates in advanced degree programs-sciences, math, technology, mathematics-are foreign students who are the backbone of our competitiveness.
- That if options for permanent immigration are not available in the United States, these legal immigrants will leave along with their knowledge, experience, hopes, and aspirations and will migrate to other countries to pursue their dreams.
- More than 350,000 legal immigrants, along with another 1,050,000 or so legal family members, are waiting patiently in a line for permanent residency-some of whom will wait upwards of 15 years.
- At each stage of significant, directed immigration to the United States, economic expansion has occurred (e.g. 1910-1918) (1965-1980) (1998-2007).
- At least 27 of the 87 U.S. Nobel prize winners from 1905 to 2005 were immigrants. In fact, five immigrants to the United States were among those awarded a Nobel Prize this year.
Sometimes it is necessary to point out the obvious. A broken employment-based immigration system is drawing in illegal immigrants. When employers have a demand for workers that cannot be met by local supply or talent, many employers will do just about anything to fill that need. While it’s easy to vilify these seemingly bad-apple employers, what would you do if you had to choose between running your business with the labor you could get and shutting down? Whether it is farm laborers in the Imperial Valley, meat packers in Iowa, chicken pluckers in Georgia, or theoretical mathematicians in Silicon Valley and “green” engineers in Detroit, are we really to believe that there will be no significant and continuing negative impact on the American economy if we don’t fix our broken immigration system now?
Think into the future. How can we miss this opportunity to grow our way out of an economic crisis, create thousands of good jobs for U.S. citizens, and ensure our long term economic prosperity by opening the door to the world’s best and brightest by fixing our broken employment-based immigration system? Nothing less than the future is riding on Congress and the President having the courage to do the right thing for America’s future.
*Charles H. Kuck is Managing Partner of Kuck Immigration Partners LLC.
Photo by IRRI Images.