U.S. Immigration Reform Priority for ‘Brain Gain’: Talent Race for Global Business Supremacy– Embrace the Best, Brightest…

U.S. immigration system is dysfunctional… it pays little attention to the highly skilled, educated, talented professionals that start businesses, create jobs and wealth for all U.S. citizens.

The U.S. immigration system is broken: Badly… the U.S. is now losing the race for highly skilled workers and foreign corporate expansion… several reports highlight the need for urgent reform. One report examines how the economic competitiveness of the U.S. is at risk due to lack of immigration reform.

According to Glenn Matthews; in essence the U.S. has closed its doors to highly skilled and highly educated immigrants. Moreover, the recent economic downturn in the U.S. has prompted an overly restrictive approach to adjudication of corporate immigration petitions from corporations seeking to expand their business into the U.S. under the L1 or E2 visa categories.

The U.S. immigration system in its current form simply does not offer the flexibility and rapidity which employers need to meet their human resource needs. As a result, high skill jobs go unfilled and many corporations elect to relocate to other countries where they are more accommodating to their needs. In a 2011 survey conducted by ‘Deloitte’ & ‘National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute’ showed that even with unemployment ‘close to 9%, U.S. manufacturing companies could not fill 600,000 open positions for skilled workers. More than half the executives who participated in the survey expected the shortage to grow over the next three to five years’.

While U.S. does have one visa program for highly educated workers (H1B Visa), a report notes that in 2009, U.S. employers submitted petitions for over 214,000 of these educated foreign workers, but the program is capped at 66,000 visas. According to Brookings Institution; U.S. faces a serious threat to its leadership in the global economy, namely; lack of skilled people and deficit in people talent. U.S. companies urgently need professionals trained in; science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) fields.

As a result, employers are often unable to fill high-skilled domestic jobs with high-skilled U.S. workers. In a Bloomberg editorial, the New York mayor said; the U.S. was falling perilously behind other nations in wooing skilled immigrants

A recent report by ‘The Partnership for New American Economy’ found that highly skilled immigrants or their children founded more than 40% of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies… and, these U.S. companies employ more than 10 million people worldwide and have combined revenues of $4.2 trillion… these are the very people we are rejecting…

In the article America’s Immigration Problem by Emi Kolawole writes: More than three-quarters of patents generated by the top 10 U.S. patent-generating universities had a foreign-born inventor, in 2011. According to John Feinblatt; we need these workers badly. They are valuable resource and we are investing in their education, but our antiquated immigration system is leaving them with no choice, but to go elsewhere.  The talent is not only going home; they are migrating, in some cases, to countries, such as; Canada, UK, Singapore, Ireland, Australia… these countries have already taken bold steps to ease the visa process for foreign students, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

According to Jean-Lou Chameau, President California Institute of Technology says; rather than a question of immigration policy this is more a matter of talent policy. John Feinblatt adds; there is a global talent race and we are losing the race, and he outlines three solutions: Guarantee a green card to master’s and PhD students who graduate with STEM degrees; Create a start-up visa or entrepreneur visa for those who secure U.S. venture capital funding; Raise the cap on H1-B visas.

In the article Immigration Reform Can Spur Economic Growth by Gil Medina writes: Studies have shown that for every foreign graduate with an advanced degree from a U.S. university who stays in this country and works in a STEM field, the economy generates on average 2.62 jobs for U.S. workers, as a direct  consequence of these technical workers. Today’s world measures progress by technological advancement achieved by regions and countries.

Technology makes life simpler and helps us achieve a better lifestyle. It also drives the political and economic stability of a nation or region. It cannot happen without knowledge workers. Projections indicate that many technical positions in the U.S. cannot be filled without immigration reform.

By 2018 there will be a deficit of more than 230,000 advanced degree workers in STEM-related fields that cannot be filled even if every new U.S. STEM graduate finds employment. An increase in visas for foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities in STEM fields would help bring new economic activity and employment growth to the U.S.

In the article Immigrants Founded 28% of Businesses in 2011 by Kent Hoover writes: Immigrants started 28% of all new businesses in the U.S. in 2011, according to a report issued by the ‘Partnership for a New America Economy’. The report based on three sets of Census Bureau data, found that the business startup rate among immigrants jumped 50% since 1996. The startup rate for native-born Americans, meanwhile, declined by 10% during the same period.

What to make of these findings? If we want the U.S. economy to pick up steam, pass immigration reform so that more immigrants can start businesses, according to the Partnership. The Partnership is composed of 450 mayors and business leaders that support immigration. The report by Robert Fairlie, University of California, Santa Cruz, found that immigrant founded businesses tended to be smaller than other businesses, but collectively they post more than $775 billion in revenue and employ one out of 10 workers at privately owned companies.

In the article Senators Push for High-skill Immigration Reform by Grant Gross writes: If we do not enact an immigration policy that continues to attract the world’s best minds, we will cease to be the world’s economic leader. Unfortunately, our broken immigration system discourages the world’s best and brightest minds from coming to the U.S. to create jobs, says, Chuck Schumer. Fourteen companies listed on the Nasdaq exchange, employing nearly 500,000 people, have foreign-born founders, said Robert Greifeld, CEO at Nasdaq. Top tech companies continue to have trouble finding qualified U.S. workers… the online job boards have thousands of technical job openings, and Apple, eBay, Google, Yahoo… all have hundreds of job openings in the San Jose area, says Greifeld.

According to Brad Smith, Microsoft, without a new immigration policy, U.S. tech companies will move more jobs overseas… the world economy has changed. It used to be that people would move in search of the right job, but increasingly, jobs move in search of the right people. Some U.S. Senators questioned the need to raise the annual H-1B cap from 85,000. According to Senator Chuck Grassley; the H-1B and L-1 intra-company visa programs are full of abuse, with some technology companies replacing U.S. workers with cheaper foreign workers. The L-1 visa program has no wage requirements, leading some companies to bring low-salary workers to the U.S. 

According to Ron Hira; current data doesn’t support the assertion by Microsoft and other companies that U.S. doesn’t have enough qualified tech workers…

What is the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors): This is a U.S. legislative proposal first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001. This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain undocumented residents of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the U.S. as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to bill’s enactment.

If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. Within the six-year period, they may qualify for permanent residency if they have; acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the U.S. or completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the U.S. or have; served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, received an honorable discharge.

What is E-Verify: This is an Internet-based, free program run by U.S. government that compares information from employee’s ‘Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9’ to data from U.S. government records. If the information matches, that employee is eligible to work in the U.S. If there is a mismatch, E-Verify alerts the employer and the employee is allowed to work while he or she resolves the problem; they must contact the appropriate agency to resolve the mismatch within eight federal government work days from the referral date. The program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with Social Security Administration.

One of the strongest narratives in U.S. history is the contributions made by talented, hard-working and entrepreneurial immigrants whose skills and knowledge created a prosperous new country. Yet today, nation’s immigration priorities and outmoded visa system discourage skilled immigrants and hobbles technology intensive employers who would hire them.

These policies work against urgent national economic priorities, such as; boosting economic vitality, achieving greater competitiveness in 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.

This might include; rebalance U.S. immigration policy with changes to visas that allows employers to access workers with the scientific and technical skills needed to improve business competitiveness, employment and innovation… Immigrants are now one-tenth of overall U.S. population– a situation that defies facile stereotyping.

According to Frank Aquila; how have we gone from a nation of immigrants, who welcomed the poorest to our shores and who applauded our tradition as the melting pot of the world, to society that cannot recognize that its own economic future depends on allowing world’s most highly skilled to bring their energy and talent here?

Something is clearly wrong when engineers and PhD educated at top universities are forced to leave the country while U.S. businesses are desperate for their services. We may no longer be willing to accept the world’s huddled masses, but we must make places for world’s top scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs if we want to remain the world’s largest and most dynamic economy…

We want the brightest and the best. The era of mass immigration is over. ~Damian Green