The US shouldn't wait to fix immigration for skilled workers

Article Highlights

  • World's best and brightest are not begging to be let into the #U.S. anymore

    Tweet This

  • U.S. no longer possesses the advantage in entrepreneurship that some believe it does

    Tweet This

  • Immigrants' productivity raises the #U.S. #GDP by an estimated $37 billion per year

    Tweet This

Mark Krikorian has criticized my recommendation that improving the legal immigration system for skilled workers would be more beneficial to the American economy than squabbling over illegal-immigration issues. He stresses that the "best and brightest are already able to stay here, and do," when in fact America is facing a reverse brain-drain crisis. As immigration expert and Harvard Law School researcher Vivek Wadhwa explains in his recent congressional testimony and in the Washington Post:

"The world's best and brightest are not begging to be let into the United States anymore." -- Rohan Poojara

• First, the world's best and brightest are not begging to be let into the United States anymore.

• Second, the U.S. no longer possesses the advantage in entrepreneurship that some believe it does.

• Finally, the U.S. is providing an unintentional gift to China and India by causing frustrated skilled immigrants to return home thanks to a burdensome visa application process.

Krikorian cites this year's Nobel Prize winners to make the point that native-born Americans dominate the sciences. However, this small sample ignores the broader historical trend--one quarter of American Nobel Prize winners since 1901 (the first year the prizes were awarded) have been immigrants. As recently as 2009, five of the eight American winners were immigrants.

Most important to address is Krikorian's claim that fixing the broken immigration system for skilled workers isn't possible until America has full control of its illegal-immigration problem, in particular the "visa overstayers"--immigrants who entered legally and never left. In the absence of better data from US-VISIT, it is impossible to determine how many "visa overstayers," out of the estimated 4.5-6 million in the U.S., entered the country on H-1B visas. We do know, however, that in 2006, less than 2 percent of the 5.8 million visas issued were H-1Bs. In view of the small number of H-1B visas issued annually, it would be unrealistic and unfair to single out H-1B workers as primary "visa overstayers."

There is undoubtedly a need for better solutions to control illegal immigration, but in the meantime, changes in the laws for legal immigrants that would shift the focus away from granting visas based on family ties and toward a system based on employer demand is a pro-growth step that we should embrace. Immigrants' productivity raises the U.S. GDP by an estimated $37 billion per year, and with the baby-boomer generation retiring by the thousands every day, highly skilled workers who contribute to innovation are the right choice for America.

Rohan Poojara is a research assistant at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Rohan
Poojara

What's new on AEI

Expanding opportunity in America
image Moving beyond fear: Addressing the threat of the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria
image Foreign policy is not a 'CSI' episode
image The Air Force’s vital role
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.