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Economics of Immigration

AIC Executive Director Ben Johnson's Testimony Before the House Judiciary Committee

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and provide testimony on behalf of the American Immigration Council. The American Immigration Council is a non-profit educational foundation which for 25 years has been dedicated to increasing public understanding of immigration law and policy and the role of immigration in American society.

Today’s hearing on “Enhancing American Competitiveness through Skilled Immigration” provides an opportunity to engage in a thoughtful conversation about the role that immigration can and should play in building a 21st century America that prospers and grows. Prosperity is a shared goal that unites us all, and offers an important lens through which to evaluate the vital role immigration plays in our economy today, as well as the necessity of retooling our outdated and hopelessly broken immigration system. As we do so, however, it is critical for us to recognize that skilled immigration encompasses a wide range of individuals with very different educational and occupational backgrounds. Moreover, the talent we seek very often comes to these shores not only through employment-based channels of immigration, but through family reunification, the admission of refugees and asylees, and can even be found within the current population of unauthorized workers.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 05, 2013 | Download File

Always in Demand: The Economic Contributions of Immigrant Scientists and Engineers

With the U.S. economy in the midst of a prolonged slump, it’s hard to believe that any industry would actually benefit from having more workers. But that is precisely the case when it comes to those industries which depend upon highly skilled scientists and engineers. The United States has long faced a dilemma in this respect: the U.S. economy is capable of absorbing more high-tech professionals than the U.S. educational system produces. That is one reason so many U.S. scientists and engineers are immigrants. In “STEM” occupations (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the foreign-born account for 26.1 percent of workers with PhDs and 17.7 percent of those with master’s degrees. Even more U.S. scientists and engineers would be immigrants if not for the arbitrary limits imposed by the U.S. immigration system, particularly the inadequate supply of green cards and H-1B visas. Given that STEM professionals tend to create jobs through their innovative work, such limits are economically self-defeating.

Immigrant scientists and engineers create new jobs.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Mar 04, 2013 | Download File

A Bipartisan Bridge to Prosperity: High-Skilled Immigration Legislation in the 113th Congress

In the spirit of bipartisan immigration reform, a geographically diverse contingent from both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation to strengthen high-skilled immigration and spur economic growth by recruiting and retaining entrepreneurial talent. Research is clear that high-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs are a source of strength for America’s economy and innovative competitiveness. Currently, the most common routes for high-skilled immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. include: H-1B visas for “specialty occupations” (which most commonly refers to occupations requiring “the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s or higher degree”), L-1 visas for “intracompany transferees,” O-1A visas for individuals with “sustained national or international acclaim” in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, and E-2 visas for treaty investors, which are available to citizens of countries with treaties of commerce and navigation with the U.S. The three new pieces of legislation include the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, the StartUp Visa Act of 2013, and the Startup Act 3.0.

Immigration Innovation Act of 2013Read more...

Published On: Mon, Mar 04, 2013 | Download File

Economic Progress via Legalization: Lessons from the Last Legalization Program

By Rob Paral

The data analyzed in IPC's latest Special Report, Economic Progress via Legalization, indicates that unauthorized immigrants who gained legal status in the 1980s through the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) experienced clear improvement in their socioeconomic situation.  Between 1990 and 2006, the educational attainment of IRCA immigrants increased substantially, their poverty rates fell dramatically, and their home ownership rates improved tremendously.  Moreover, their real wages rose, many of them moved into managerial positions, and the vast majority did not depend upon public assistance. The findings presented in this report support the notion that legalization of unauthorized immigrants can play a role in promoting economic growth and lessening socioeconomic disparities.  Reforming our immigration system is not an obstacle to getting our economy back on track—it is part of the solution.

Originally Published Nov. 5, 2009

Published On: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 | Download File

Back to the Future: The Impact of Legalization Then and Now

While there are many facets to an intelligent immigration reform package, one thing is clear: legalization for undocumented immigrants helps all of us.  Most economists recognize that legalization has worked in the past.  After a significant percentage of the undocumented population legalized under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), information on IRCA applicants was used to assess the legislation’s impact.  My own research has shown that IRCA provided immediate direct benefits by successfully turning formerly clandestine workers into higher-paid employees. Other researchers have shown that IRCA provided unexpected indirect benefits to the communities where legalized immigrants resided.  After legalization, fewer of these immigrants sent money back to their home countries, and those who sent back money sent back less.  More of their earnings were spent in their communities in the United States.  Research also showed that the legalized population became participating community members—nearly two out of five people who legalized under IRCA were U.S. citizens by 2001.

What we learned from IRCA gives us a bird’s eye view into what we can expect to happen with a new legalization program. By examining three areas of concern: work, family, and community, we can see what economic and social benefits would be derived from a legalization program in 2013.

By Sherrie A. Kossoudji, Ph.D.

Published On: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 | Download File

Economic Benefits of Granting Deferred Action to Unauthorized Immigrants Brought to U.S. as Youth

There are an estimated 1.4 million children and young adults in the United States who might benefit from President Obama’s announcement that the Department of Homeland Security would begin granting deferred action (and Employment Authorization Documents) to unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. For many of these young people, the United States is the only home they know and English is their first language. Each year, tens of thousands of them graduate from primary or secondary school, often at the top of their classes. They have the potential to be future doctors, nurses, teachers, and entrepreneurs, but their lack of legal status has prevented them from attending college or working legally. The President’s deferred action initiative will provide an opportunity for them to live up to their full potential and, in the process, make greater contributions to the U.S. economy. Read more...

Published On: Fri, Jun 22, 2012 | Download File

Bad for Business: How Anti-Immigration Legislation Drains Budgets and Damages States’ Economies

Updated 06/04/12 - This session, state legislatures are once again considering harsh immigration-control laws. These laws are intended to make everyday life so difficult for unauthorized immigrants that they will choose to “self-deport” and return to their home countries. Proponents of these laws claim that the departure of unauthorized immigrants will save states millions of dollars and create jobs for U.S citizens. However, experience from states that have passed similar anti-immigration measures shows that the opposite can occur: the impact of the laws can hinder prospects for economic growth, and the costs of implementing, defending, and enforcing these laws can force taxpayers to pay millions of dollars. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Mar 26, 2012 | Download File

The Politics of Skill: Rethinking the Value of "Low-Skilled" Immigrant Workers

By Natasha Iskander and Nichola Lowe

The political discourse surrounding the incorporation of immigrants into the U.S. labor market tends to sort immigrant workers into two broad and mutually exclusive categories: high-skilled workers who are valued by many for their contribution to economic growth, and low-skilled workers who are viewed by some as causing a glut in the U.S. labor market and thereby displacing low and middle-income native-born workers. For the most part, these categories are structured around formal education. Workers possessing a level of formal education equal or superior to the median in the United States are on one side of this divide, while workers with less formal education than that threshold are on the other. Most current proposals favor expanding immigration opportunities for those immigrants with high levels of formal education.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 15, 2012 | Download File

Pew Analysis Highlights Immigrant Integration and Economic Contributions

Immigrants integrate into U.S. society over time and they contribute to the U.S. economy. These crucial yet often-overlooked facts are illustrated well by the Pew Hispanic Center’s latest statistical profile of the foreign-born population. According to Pew’s analysis of Census data, most immigrants have been here for more than a decade, and the longer they have been here, the more likely they are to have become homeowners and learned English. Moreover, growing numbers of immigrants are becoming U.S. citizens, which translates into growing political clout. The Pew data also show the degree to which immigrants fuel labor-force growth and fill valuable roles in the economy as workers in both high-skilled and less-skilled occupations. In short, immigrants are integral to the nation’s social and economic fabric. Read more...

Published On: Wed, Mar 07, 2012 | Download File

Bad for Business: How Mississippi’s Proposed Anti-Immigration Laws Will Stifle the State Economy

While proponents of harsh immigration bills in Mississippi claim that passing these laws would save the state money, experience from other states shows these immigration laws will actually cost the state millions of dollars. Implementing the laws and defending them in the courts would cost Mississippi’s taxpayers millions they can ill afford. The laws would make it more difficult for businesses to operate in the state and would deter investment. The loss of taxpayers and consumers would devastate Mississippi’s economy.  Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 02, 2012 | Download File