July 22, 2021
Under America’s current immigration system, it can take years for hardworking, talented individuals to legally obtain the documentation required to work in the United States. In turn, countless jobs remain unfilled due to labor shortages.
Changing government policy around immigration, therefore, is necessary to remove these barriers for new people to join the American workforce and bolster the economy. Here’s how immigration reform can drive economic growth at both the local and national levels.
With Falling U.S. Birth Rates, Immigration Is Crucial to Filling American Jobs
As the average life expectancy in the U.S. increases, so too does the need for working-age Americans to support the economy. But with birth rates in the country declining for the past decade, there may soon come a time when American labor alone cannot meet those needs.
“America’s future economic growth depends on a growing and predictable population of working-age individuals … to support the retirement and healthcare needs of the current Americans who are living longer,” noted Andrew H. Tisch, co-chairman of the board and chairman of the executive committee at Loews Corporation. “When it comes to paying into Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the denominator is shrinking while the numerator is growing.”
“There’s not much the government can or should do to change the birth rate,” Tisch continued. “So what do you do? You welcome more hardworking immigrants who tend to come here when they are young and work for decades, contributing to the economy and paying taxes.”
The Immigration System Impacts Every Industry and Level of the Workforce
The ramifications of our current immigration system are not only apparent on a national level; they are also impacting local and state economies. As many cities face worker shortages, businesses across the country and across industries are being forced to shut down or reduce their operations.
“It really doesn’t matter what sector you’re in …. this shortage of workers in every industry, every skill set level and every size of business [is] affecting all of us,” said Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. “Immigration reform could help fill these gaps.”
With respect to potential reform solutions, Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, noted that guest worker programs and lifting the cap on H1-B visas could help bring and keep talented immigrants in the American workforce.
“We draw on people from all over the world, the best and brightest, and many of them want to stay here and apply their trade — and instead [they get] kicked back to where they came from and [are told] to compete against us,” Bauer said. “It doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Immigrants Are Critical to Building Business’ Talent Pipelines
Linda Moore, president and CEO of TechNet, has found immigrants to be crucial to filling the rapidly-increasing demand in the technology workforce. With two and a half million job openings across the United States, Moore championed immigration reform to help build a talent pipeline while also training the American workforce.
“We’re in a global race for talent … Other countries are putting policies in place that are making it easier for immigrants to grow their businesses and create jobs,” Moore emphasized. “We definitely don’t want America going in the opposite direction.”
How Chambers Can Advance Immigration Reform
Though immigration reform is often discussed at the federal level, local Chambers of Commerce can also help drive this change.
“Chambers are vital in supporting and leading the push for better immigration policy [because] they speak for the community,” Beckkson said. “It’s important for chambers to identify key stakeholders in their community and regularly engage with them … to help educate and inform the community at large.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, too, is working tirelessly to advance immigration reform.
“We are talking to everyone that we can talk to on Capitol Hill … [and] we’re working with the Department of Homeland Security [and] the Department of Labor,” explained Jon Baselice, vice president of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “All those things that hold back economic activity, it holds back creating jobs for American workers. There’s a lot we need to do … [and] we’re going to keep at it.”