A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Council on International Personnel (ACIP) highlights the enormous contributions that highly skilled immigrants make to the U.S. economy. The report, entitled Regaining America’s Competitive Advantage: Making Our Immigration System Work, rebuts the simplistic claims of immigration restrictionists that foreign-born professionals who come to the United States on temporary employment visas (such as H-1Bs) are somehow “stealing” jobs from native-born workers. As the report notes, the restrictionists overlook the myriad ways in which highly skilled immigrants fuel U.S. economic growth and create U.S. jobs through their innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Chamber of Commerce/ACIP report argues that one of the biggest mistakes made by critics of high-skilled immigration is to assume, incorrectly, that foreign-born and native-born professionals are competing for some fixed number of jobs in the U.S. economy. In reality, however, a skilled immigrant who contributes to a scientific breakthrough, a new invention, or the founding of a new company in the United States is creating jobs, not merely filling one. The report cites an abundance of research demonstrating this basic fact. For instance:

  • A 2008 study by researchers at Duke University and Harvard University concluded that one-quarter of all engineering and technology-related companies founded in the United States from 1995 to 2005 “had at least one immigrant key founder,” and that these companies “produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers in 2005.” Moreover, these immigrant-founded firms have “contributed greatly to the country’s economic growth over time.”
  • A 2006 study by the National Venture Capital Association found that, during the previous 15 years, immigrants started one-quarter of the public companies in the United States backed by venture capital. These companies had a market capitalization of more than $500 billion and employed 220,000 workers in the United States in 2006. The largest of these immigrant-founded firms were Intel, Solectron, Sanmina-SCI, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Yahoo!, and Google.
  • A 2001 study by researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Missouri-St Louis found that foreign-born scientists and engineers in the United States are “disproportionately represented” among individuals elected to the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, among authors of scientific papers and patents, and among founders and chairs of biotechnology companies.

It is difficult to imagine how the U.S. economy or U.S. workers would benefit from the absence of these highly skilled immigrants and the jobs they create. As the Chamber of Commerce/ACIP report concludes:

Closing the door to highly educated individuals…who aid the competitiveness of U.S. companies will weaken, not strengthen, our country and will diminish the competitiveness of American employers. In the global economy, investment follows the talent and attempts to restrict the hiring of talented foreign-born professionals in the United States encourages such hiring to take place overseas, where the investment dollars will follow.

In other words, if the United States won’t take the best and the brightest, then its economic competitors will.

Photo by Niosh