President Obama will soon announce what actions he'll take on immigration. This has provoked strong reactions on all sides of this issue, but until we see the details, it’s not very useful to analyze what may or may not be in it.
What is helpful is continuing to explain that fixing our broken immigration system will create jobs, boost wages, and improve the economy.
In the Washington Times, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue does that by making the business case for immigration reform.
1. Employers Can’t Find the Workers They Need
Employers are often unable to hire high-skilled foreign-born professional workers — even those who are educated in the United States. Why? Because hiring caps were set more than 20 years ago when our economy was one-third its current size.
Congress hasn’t allocated visas for a single temporary foreign worker to legally enter our country for lesser-skilled year-round jobs — even if a business can’t find sufficient numbers of qualified and interested Americans through rigorous local labor market recruitment.
On top of that, we don’t have a uniform national mandatory electronic employment verification system. Without one, the United States will remain a magnet for illegal immigration. More needs to be done to secure our borders, and a system in which more than 11 million undocumented immigrants are living and working in our communities in de facto amnesty is indefensible.
2. Immigrants Create Jobs for Americans
Immigrants do not typically compete with Americans for jobs. The reality is that they create more jobs through entrepreneurship, economic activity and tax revenues. Immigrants complement U.S.-born workers and can help fill labor shortages across the skill spectrum and in key sectors.
As economist Giovanni Peri writes, “[I]mmigration has a positive long-run effect on the average income of native workers.”
3. Reform Can Help Solve Our Impending Entitlements Crisis
Immigrants also can help replenish the workforce as baby boomers retire, growing our tax base and raising the worker-to-retiree ratio, which is essential to support programs for the elderly and the less fortunate.
4. The Public Wants Reform
Proponents of common-sense immigration reform include lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as labor, business, law enforcement, ethnic organizations, religious groups, and the high-tech industry. Most important, polls consistently show that the majority of voters believe that the status quo on immigration is unacceptable.
To sum it all up, we need immigration reform that:
- Strengthens border security.
- Improves the employment verification system.
- Ensures the availability of workers—high-skilled, lesser-skilled, and agricultural workers--when employers experience labor shortages.
- Provides a means for undocumented workers to earn lawful status by getting a background check and paying any fines and back taxes owed.