Apr 12, 2017 - 4:00pm

1500 Economists Agree. Let's Modernize the Immigration System for the Good of Our Economy.


Senior Editor, Digital Content

Nearly 1,500 economists are reminding Washington that immigration helps the economy grow and creates American jobs. Therefore we need to modernize our immigration system.

Economists of all political stripes, including six Nobel Prize winners, signed a letter organized by the American Action Forum and the New American Economy.

“The benefits that immigration brings to society far outweigh their costs, and smart immigration policy could better maximize the benefits of immigration while reducing the costs,” the letter reads.

It goes on to note that many immigrants are entrepreneurs who come here to start companies that employ Americans. They offer a diverse set of skills that help American workers become more productive and make American companies more innovative. In addition, younger immigrant workers replace retirees leaving the workforce.

Now, reform opponents argue that immigrants are a burden to our country. But as I’ve written previously in an immigration reform explainer, that’s not true:

A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) found that “Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth.” They generate demand for goods and services “in key sectors such as housing, which benefits residential real estate markets.”

Their labor contributions “reduce the prices of some goods and services” for native-born Americans in “sectors including child care, food preparation, house cleaning and repair, and construction.”

Immigrants also spawn innovation. According to the NAS report, “high-skilled immigrants raise patenting per capita, which is likely to boost productivity and per capita economic growth.”

Washington must work towards fixing an immigration system that, number one, addresses national security, but also works for a 21st Century economy. From my explainer:

This includes addressing the green card backlogs in our employment-based immigration system and creating effective temporary worker programs for workers of all skill levels.  Addressing these two key issues will not only allow employers to innovate and create jobs, but effective temporary worker programs for the lesser-skilled occupations are essential to preventing unauthorized migration in the future.

Further to that end, Congress must put in place a worker employment verification system that works for businesses of all sizes in all industries to curb unauthorized employment, commonly referred to as the “job magnet” that drives unauthorized migration to the U.S.

And finally there has to be a process that sets forth strict eligibility criteria for allowing the otherwise law-abiding people individuals who are not authorized to be in the U.S. an opportunity to earn a legal status.

Congress and the administration have a lot on their plate with health care and tax reform, but fixing our broken immigration system can produce positive policy change. “With the proper and necessary safeguards in place, immigration represents an opportunity rather than a threat to our economy and to American workers,” the economists state.

Below is the letter in full:

Dear Mr. President, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan, and Minority Leader Pelosi:

The undersigned economists represent a broad swath of political and economic views. Among us are Republicans and Democrats alike. Some of us favor free markets while others have championed for a larger role for government in the economy. But on some issues there is near universal agreement. One such issue concerns the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.

As Congress and the Administration prepare to revisit our immigration laws, we write to express our broad consensus that immigration is one of America’s significant competitive advantages in the global economy. With the proper and necessary safeguards in place, immigration represents an opportunity rather than a threat to our economy and to American workers.

We view the benefits of immigration as myriad:

  • Immigration brings entrepreneurs who start new businesses that hire American workers.
  • Immigration brings young workers who help offset the large-scale retirement of baby boomers.
  • Immigration brings diverse skill sets that keep our workforce flexible, help companies grow, and increase the productivity of American workers.
  • Immigrants are far more likely to work in innovative, job-creating fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math that create life-improving products and drive economic growth.

Immigration undoubtedly has economic costs as well, particularly for Americans in certain industries and Americans with lower levels of educational attainment. But the benefits that immigration brings to society far outweigh their costs, and smart immigration policy could better maximize the benefits of immigration while reducing the costs.

We urge Congress to modernize our immigration system in a way that maximizes the opportunity immigration can bring, and reaffirms continuing the rich history of welcoming immigrants to the United States.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean has written for various Chamber properties since 2012. In 1999, Sean launched a “weblog” and never looked back, becoming a self-proclaimed pioneer of the medium.