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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“It's not about taking jobs,” Williams said. “It's definitely more complex than that.”

The more educated the immigrant, the higher their tax payments and lower their government assistance. Foreign-born adults pay on average about $7,800 in federal, state and employment taxes while their families receive $4,400 in cash and other assistance from the government.

Undocumented workers comprise about 30 percent of all immigrants here, and make up about 20 percent of all adults in the country without a high school diploma.

Foreign-born workers are heavily present in highly skilled jobs in sciences and medicine and in low-skilled jobs like construction, housekeeping and agricultural laborers.

‘Race for talent'

Also at issue are U.S.-educated graduates who grow up living in the country, going to school here and find no sanctuary for their undocumented status when they're ready to enter the job market, according to the report.

Recently, this issue has been brought up through proposed legislation like the Dream Act, which would allow a path to residency for undocumented youths educated in the U.S., who've lived here a number of years and meet other criteria.

“This is about a global race for talent,” Williams said. “When we export foreign students back home, they inevitably will compete against us.”

Oklahoma City immigration attorney Vance Winnigham said an issue lightly touched upon in the report is the declining American birthrate and a rapidly aging population here.

“The gap between employed versus retired is continuing to narrow,” Winnigham said. Immigration policies in other developed countries seek to attract and keep highly educated immigrants.

Winnigham said more “enlightened” immigration policies also would likely decrease the numbers of immigrants overstaying visas or entering the country illegally to work.

Highly educated workers seeking permanent residence here has subsided while underdeveloped or undeveloped countries are offering increased opportunities for them, he said.

“We have a lot of global companies here. If they can't bring the talent here, they go to the talent,” added Williams.