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Brookings Institute Suggests Reforming Immigration System to Allow More Educated Foreign-Born Workers to Immigrate to US

January 14th, 2011 No comments
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The following excerpt is taken from a Brookings Institute report regarding the role of immigration in our country’s ability to innovate and compete economically with other world powers.

One of the strongest narratives in U.S. history has been the contribution made by talented, hard-working and entrepreneurial immigrants whose skills and knowledge created a prosperous new country. Yet today, the nation’s immigration priorities and outmoded visa system discourage skilled immigrants and hobble the technology-intensive employers who would hire them. These policies work against urgent national economic priorities, such as boosting economic vitality, achieving greater competitiveness in the global marketplace and renewing our innovation leadership.

In the long term, the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform. In the short term, policymakers should focus on reforms that are directly related to increasing the “brain gain” for the nation—creating new jobs and producing economic benefits—to produce tangible and achievable improvements in our immigration system.

The Brookings Institute recommends:

* Rebalance U.S. immigration policies to produce a “brain gain,” with changes to visas that will allow employers to access workers with the scientific and technological skills they need to improve economic competitiveness, employment and innovation
* Tie immigration levels to national economic cycles to meet changing levels of need
* Use digital technologies to modernize the current visa system

The Report points out several immigrant contributions to the US economy:
* Immigrants’ productivity raises the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by an estimated $37 billion per year

* More than a quarter of U.S. technology and engineering businesses launched between 1995 and 2005 had a foreign-born founder

* In Silicon Valley, more than half of new tech start-up companies were founded by foreignborn owners

* In 2005, companies founded by immigrants produced $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000 workers

* Nearly a quarter of the international patents filed from the United States in 2006 were based on the work of foreign-born individuals (more than half of whom received their highest degree from an American university)

* Economists calculate that, as a result of immigration, 90 percent of native-born Americans with at least a high-school diploma have seen wage gains

* Historically, immigrants have made outsize contributions to American science and technology, with Albert Einstein perhaps the leading example. One-third of all U.S. winners of Nobel prizes in medicine and physiology were born in other countries Far from “crowding out” native-born workers and depressing their wages, well-educated, entrepreneurial immigrants do much to create and support employment for Americans.

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