Mar 16, 2015 - 3:45pm

Immigration and the Economy: Look at the Facts – Not the Fiction

The immigration debate continues to grab lots of headlines – but the facts about legal immigration and its positive impact on jobs are often muffled by myths.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- along with a coalition of 19 associations that includes BSA | The Software Alliance, Compete America Coalition, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the Tech CEO Council – has reached out to the Senate Judiciary Committee before its Tuesday hearing, “Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers, to set the record straight.

Economists, researchers at leading think tanks, and experts at top universities, along with the majority of Americans, overwhelmingly agree that legal immigration is good for our economy and essential to remaining competitive in a global marketplace. Yet immigration restrictionists continue to rely on flawed studies and non-representative anecdotes to argue that immigration harms America and American workers.

So, let the debunking begin:

MYTH: Lowering the number of immigrants would free up jobs for American workers.
FACT: Immigration helps create jobs for American workers.

MYTH: Foreign workers displace American workers in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
FACT: Employment data show that there are not enough native-born STEM workers to fill available STEM jobs and foreign STEM workers are not displacing their native-born counterparts.

MYTH: STEM professional wages are stagnant and immigrants in STEM professional jobs are not needed.
FACT: Wages are increasing for STEM professionals and U.S. companies have hard-to-fill positions that require STEM degrees with specific skills.

MYTH: Foreign workers take one in five jobs in America.
FACT: Americans fill more than 91 percent of all jobs in America.

MYTH: Lesser-skilled immigrants take jobs away from Americans without college degrees.
FACT: The data show that immigration does not negatively impact American workers without college degrees. In fact, lesser-skilled immigrants create jobs for Americans and grow crucial sectors of our economy.

The Chamber, in its own statement to the Senate panel, goes on to emphasize:

  • There is a clear need to develop and educate more U.S. workers in the STEM fields. The U.S. Chamber and its members are undertaking many activities to meet this goal.
     
  • There currently are insufficient numbers of qualified and available American workers in the STEM fields, which undermines the ability of U.S. employers to compete, and therefore remain viable in the global marketplace. In fact, studies demonstrate the beneficial impact of H-1B workers and skilled immigration (and immigration generally). Those who argue otherwise distort the data, confuse the types of STEM occupations for which employers are recruiting under the H-1B visa program, and fail to understand that unemployment rates vary widely depending on occupation and region, irrespective of the national unemployment rate.
     
  • Congress has enacted labor market protections for the H-1B category, while balancing the need to ensure the government does not interfere in the hiring decisions of private employers. Perhaps the predicates for worker safeguards need to be updated, but a wholesale disruption is not needed in the balance between these safeguards and ensuring skilled jobs get filled here at home. And, enforcement regarding H-1B compliance has already been ramped up – under this administration there are now over 15,000 site visits annually to H-1B employers to confirm compliance.
     
  • It cannot be seriously argued that our existing caps under the H-1B program or for permanent high skilled immigration are realistic in today’s economy. These caps were set in 1990, and our economy has grown since then.
     
  • The bipartisan Immigration Innovation Act should be actively considered, because it addresses the concerns of the business community while stepping up education and training in STEM.
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