EL PASO – The ongoing immigration reform debate – either in favor of or against any drastic legislative change, – usually focuses on the influx of undocumented immigrants, while ignoring its effect on the U.S. economy.
The way current immigration laws are written and executed is making it harder for companies to compete, according to a new report published by the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), an organization created to highlight the contributions made by foreign entrepreneurship in Fortune 500 companies, 40 percent of which were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.
“We are having the wrong immigration debate,” said Jeremy Robbins, of the PNAE and special counsel to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The benefits the immigrant labor force provide the U.S. is substantial, said Roberto Rodríguez Hernández, Mexican consul general in El Paso. “Ninety-nine percent of immigrants are people who are not criminals, who don’t wish to cause any problems and don’t come to this country to steal from healthcare services or collapse the social security program. Simply put, their participation is very important because they contribute to the economic development of the United States,” said Rodríguez.
The notion that immigrants are more likely to start their own business and subsequently generate more jobs in the U.S. is what the PNAE report is trying to portray.
But in at atmosphere of economic uncertainty and high unemployment the question many Americans would argue is that why should more immigrants be allowed into the country and possibly take jobs away from them?
A counter argument to that impression would be that the country is currently facing a large over- and under-educated workforce.
Overeducated in the sense that very few Americans are whiling to work labor-intensive jobs, which traditionally have been filled by minorities. And undereducated because there are not enough Americans skilled in the fields of science, technology and engineering, fields that create jobs three times faster than other aspects of the economy.
Robbins argues that instead of outsourcing those jobs, which generate revenue outside the country, they should be filled locally in the U.S. by the thousands and thousands of people from around the world who are qualified and whiling to relocate.
“The 21st century global economy is not going to be about competition of resources or access to capital, it is going to be about access to talent,” he added.
A solution that is being considered by many proponents of immigration reform would be the creation of entrepreneurial visas, permits that would allow foreign entrepreneurs to create startup business and generate jobs.
“There is a clear need for well-defined rules and regulations for foreign entrepreneurs,” said José Luis Mauricio, president of the group La Red México, which is a local organization that assists its new immigrant middle-class membership with business and legal advice.
“Any investor that wishes to come to the United States from México needs to know what are the specific requirements to start a business. If the rules are clear and applied equally to everyone, people will be more inclined to invest,” he added.
The extension of green cards for graduates with advance degrees and additional temporary visas for high and low skilled work fields are options that would considerably stimulate the U.S. economy, according to the report.