Sustaining a robust pipeline for highly-skilled workers and keeping America competitive are two sides of the same coin. Consider the alternative: if these highly trained engineers, scientists, mathematicians and programmers are not allowed to stay and work in the U.S., they’ll simply end up helping one of our global competitors grow their own economy.
Similarly, college graduates with STEM degrees that are not allowed to stay and work in the U.S. will leave.
This undermines U.S. competitiveness and the ability of businesses to hire the talented workers they need. As President Obama said last year, “There are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities. We’re giving them all the skills they need to figure that out. But then we’re going to turn around and tell them to start that business and create those jobs in China or India or Mexico…That’s not how you grow new industries in America.”
Another way to look at foreign born entrepreneurs’ impact on economic growth is in startup formation. A study conducted by Duke professor Vivek Wadhwa, who was cited last year by Time Magazine as one of the Top 40 Most Influential Minds in Tech, showed that a quarter of technology-based companies started between 1995 and 2005 had a foreign-born CEO or chief technologist. These new companies posted revenue of $52 billion and employed a staggering 450,000 people.
Furthermore, a report by the Kauffman Foundation held that “…immigrants were more than twice as likely to start businesses each month than were the native-born in 2010.” According to the Brookings Institution, “…among people with advanced degrees, immigrants are three times more likely to file patents than US-born citizens. Such investments in new businesses and in research may provide spillover benefits to US-born workers by enhancing job creation and by increasing innovation among their US-born peers.”
Simply put, the current limits for highly-skilled individuals to work in this country put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace. These limits must be lifted while maintaining a level playing field for all those who need to tap that global talent pool to succeed – and without discriminatory carve-outs for special interests that will simply drive jobs offshore.
Fixing our immigration system is crucial as our country faces increasingly competitive challenges in the years ahead. Washington needs to take “yes” as an answer for once and take action on an issue that members of both parties say is long past due.