Press Release: Boosting the Economy Through Smart Immigration Reform

A smarter immigration system will help drive the economy, create jobs and preserve America’s leading position in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

That is the message brought to Washington today by members of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a national, bipartisan coalition of mayors and business leaders who believe intelligent immigration reform is needed to aid the American economy and create much-needed new jobs for American workers. At a hearing on the “Economic Imperative of Immigration Reform,” the following Partnership members shared their views with the members of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security:

  • Robert Greifeld, CEO and President of NASDAQ;
  • Brad Smith, General Counsel at Microsoft Corporation, a Partnership member;
  • David R. Roefaro, Mayor of Utica, New York; and
  • Larry Gilbert, Mayor of Lewiston, Maine.

Today’s testimony from these four Partnership members, making up half of the hearing panel, reflects the growing momentum of the coalition’s message in the national immigration debate. The Partnership was started in June 2010 by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other prominent mayors and business leaders to make the economic case for immigration reforms that will sustain the United States as the most vibrant economy in the world. And one year later, the Partnership has grown to more than 300 members, including mayors representing more than 33 million residents in large and small cities across the country and business leaders whose companies employ almost 4 million people in all sectors of the economy. With a message that is being heard both in Washington and across the country, the Partnership represents a growing national consensus that a smarter immigration policy is vital to America’s economic future.

“Members of the Partnership for a New American Economy understand how the nation’s broken immigration system is hurting our economy, and today’s hearing is an opportunity to urge Congress to act,” said Partnership Co-Chair Michael R. Bloomberg. “Mayors and business leaders around the country agree: Smarter immigration policy will help the economy and create new jobs, which America needs now.”

At the hearing, the four Partnership members talked about the value of a smarter immigration policy to their businesses and local economy.

Greifeld emphasized the central role of talented immigrants in driving the innovations and building the companies that put Americans to work.

“Congress should see immigration reform as a pressing jobs issue. The current legal immigration regime with its inadequacies and costs is robbing America of the next generation of great companies,” said Greifeld. “I believe that Google, Yahoo and eBay – many of the job drivers of the last 20 years – would likely not be founded in America today.”

A June 2011 Partnership report, “The New American Fortune 500,” found that more than 40 percent of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. In addition, immigrants are twice as likely to start a business according to the Kaufmann Foundation March 2011 Index of Economic Activity.

Microsoft’s Smith focused on the impact immigration can have on America’s workforce.
“As we work toward smart immigration reform we must keep our focus on the vital economic benefits achievable through this effort,” Smith said. “With smart reforms to our country’s education and immigration systems, we can continue that legacy and ensure America’s workforce is the most talented and innovative in the world.”

According to multiple studies, immigrants possess sought-after skills for pioneering the products of tomorrow. Immigrants accounted for 33 percent of the doctorates and 57 percent of the post-doctorates in U.S. science and engineering programs, according to the National Science Board. A study of international patents by U.S. companies showed that foreign-born inventors were behind 72 percent of Qualcomm’s patents, 65 percent of Merck’s patents, and 64 percent of General Electric’s patents. Remarkably, even the federal government relied heavily on immigrant workers, with 41 percent of the patents filed by the U.S. government having foreign-born inventors or co-inventors.

Immigrants have been an economic engine for big cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and for small towns across the country. From 1990 to 2006, the cities with the biggest increase in immigrant workers were the cities with the fastest economic growth.

“Our country was built by immigrants. From the young Irishmen who built the Erie Canal across New York to Bosnian families seeking political refuge and starting small businesses in Utica today, immigrants have been the key to our past success and will serve as a catalyst to both Utica’s and certainly our nation’s future,” said Mayor Roefaro.

“I appreciated the chance to share Lewiston’s immigrant experiences as a city and the many contributions of our immigrant residents—be they from my French-Canadian roots or our new population from Somalia and other African countries,” said Mayor Gilbert. “Lewiston continues to be a vibrant and growing city because we welcome those who come here to work hard and seek a better life.”

The Partnership for a New American Economy supports comprehensive immigration reform, but believes that the following discrete immigration reforms should be passed immediately to help stimulate our economy:

  • Provide green cards for students with advanced degrees from U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering, math and other essential fields;
  • Establish a new entrepreneur visa for immigrants who have backing from U.S. investors to allow them to start their company in the U.S. and, if they create enough American jobs, earn a green-card;
  • Expand the number of temporary and permanent visas issued for high-skilled workers, including eliminating green card’s country-caps in favor of a “first-come, first-served” system; and
  • Streamline seasonal guest-worker programs by minimizing administrative and regulatory requirements so businesses can grow when they can’t otherwise fill jobs.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…