Those who oppose increasing the number of visas available for the most highly-skilled immigrants argue that such workers take jobs that would otherwise go to Americans. But studies consistently find that foreign-born workers with advanced degrees from U.S. universities in the STEM fields actually create jobs for Americans.
A study of employment data by the American Enterprise Institute found, for example, "An additional 100 foreign-born workers in STEM fields with advanced degrees from U.S. universities is associated with an additional 262 jobs among U.S. natives. While the effect is biggest for U.S.-educated immigrants working in STEM, immigrants with advanced degrees in general raised employment among U.S. natives during 2000-2007." The study also found that it didn't matter which field or where immigrants earned their advance degrees, their presence increased employment for American native workers, with 44 new jobs created for every 100 highly trained immigrants employed.
Limiting access to those immigrants most likely to contribute to the U.S. economy is foolhardy. There is bipartisan support for trying to fix the problem, but the approaches vary widely, including some that would simply re-allocate existing visas available to other categories of permanent resident applicants.
The NFAP states the problem well: "Absent changes in the law by Congress, the long wait times for high skilled foreign nationals, including those educated in America, will continue. At a time when there is fierce competition around the world to hire highly skilled individuals, this threatens to deprive the country of talented individuals who will choose to develop innovations, make their careers and raise their families in other nations."
But in an election year when sentiments on immigration run high, politicians may find it easier to do nothing.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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