NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 30, 2009

It usually pays to be skeptical about immigration reform, but an economic downturn is the right time to move on immigration, one of the few policy tools that could clearly boost growth, says the Wall Street Journal.

The pace of lower-skilled migration has slowed due to higher unemployment.  However, it's a good time to ask why we turn away skilled workers, including the ones earning 60 percent of the advanced degrees in engineering at U.S. universities, says the Journal:

  • Immigrants have had a disproportionate role in innovation and technology; companies founded by immigrants include Yahoo, eBay and Google, and half of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrants, up from 25 percent a decade ago.
  • Some 40 percent of patents in the United States are awarded to immigrants.
  • A recent study found that immigrants are 50 percent likelier to start businesses than natives, immigrant-founded technology firms employ 450,000 workers in the United States and immigrants have started one quarter of all U.S. venture-backed firms.

Moreover, banks getting federal bailouts are saddled with new hurdles to get visas for skilled workers, says the Journal:

  • The wait for H-1B visas for skilled people from countries such as China and India is now more than five years, with only 65,000 visas granted annually among 600,000 applications.
  • But countries such as Canada and Singapore actively recruit technologists and scientists.
  • Further, economic recovery and immigration are closely linked and there's a strong case that we need both more skilled and unskilled immigrants, especially at a time when our financial-capital markets are still reeling from the credit bust.

Furthermore, today's information technologies thrive as innovators share new ideas and make businesses out of them.  Much of this activity is being done by foreigners making more open immigration one of the few stimulus packages Washington can deliver with confidence that it would help, says the Journal.

Source: L. Gordon Crovitz, "We Need an Immigration Stimulus," Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2009.

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