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Immigration policy changes could bolster economy, report says

The report from the American Enterprise Institute and the Partnership for a New American Economy outlines several areas where changes in immigration policies could help job growth, decrease deficits and improve the U.S. economy.
BY VALLERY BROWN vbrown@opubco.com Published: January 7, 2012
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Most foreign-born workers tend to pay more into the economy than they receive in government services, and end up helping create jobs for U.S. natives, a new report shows.

The report from the American Enterprise Institute and the Partnership for a New American Economy outlines several areas where changes in immigration policies could help job growth, decrease deficits and improve the economy.

“American's immigration policy is not geared toward stimulating economic growth and job creation,” the report states. “Every other developed country puts more emphasis on admitting immigrants that will meet economic needs.”

The report recommends incremental changes to the country's immigration policy that could “boost employment and accelerate the country's economic recovery.”

Also suggested is an increase in the number of workers' visas made available annually, particularly for highly skilled workers trained in advanced math and science fields. Making more temporary visas for both skilled and less skilled workers “would help generate the growth, economic opportunity, and new jobs America needs,” the report states.

According to the report:

About 7 percent of the more than 1 million green cards issued yearly are based on employment. Canada admits about 25 percent of its immigrants based on employment, Australia 42 percent and Germany and the United Kingdom almost 60 percent.

“It's a frustrating thing,” said Greater Oklahoma City Chamber CEO Roy Williams. “We hear from the business community about this very thing ... and it's not about cheap workers, it's about the companies being able to recruit internationally.”

Immigration can complement job growth, particularly over the long term. Supporters of tougher immigration laws often characterize the argument as one of job competition — an immigrant takes the job of a U.S. citizen or lowers wages for a certain job.

Educated immigrants tend to start up businesses, apply for patents and drive innovation, creating more jobs. Foreign-born workers often have different skills than U.S. natives, and frequently work in jobs where it's harder to recruit native workers.

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