A CEO’s argument for immigration reform

Americans are hungry for immigration reform. Four-fifths of voters want Congress to act this year, according to a poll released July 9 by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Yet Congress has stated that it has little interest in reforming our immigration system this year. No one should take solace that inaction is a good outcome for America. Congress is letting an important opportunity slip to address an overwhelming national need. No one wins with the status quo.

The economic case for reform is compelling. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that immigration reform would increase gross domestic product by 4.8 percent over 20 years. The Congressional Budget Office projects that reform-driven growth would add 9 million jobs over those same two decades.

Reform would also pay off for the communities where immigrants settle. The Partnership for a New American Economy estimates that immigrants are nearly 50 percent more likely to start a business than native-born workers and are responsible for more than one-quarter of new businesses in seven of the eight fastest-growing sectors of the economy.

These new businesses mean new customers for the companies that supply them, more tax revenue for local communities — and more jobs for Americans.

Let us not forget the rich immigrant heritage of this country. Immigrants, or their children, founded more than 40 percent of U.S. Fortune 500 companies — including one of the founders of the company I lead, Texas Instruments. Many of the most successful companies in our economy, the ones creating the best jobs right now, got their start as a direct result of our nation’s willingness to welcome newcomers looking to pursue their version of the American Dream.

Meaningful immigration reform has three essential components.

First, it improves border security. Second, it enables legal immigrant workers to contribute to economic growth and job creation by increasing visas and green cards for highly educated workers and by establishing a new system for lower-skilled workers.

Finally, successful reform offers a solution for undocumented immigrants that integrates them into our society — and allows those already residing in the United States to come forward, pay a penalty and earn legal status so they may work and travel freely.

For TI, and many other high-tech companies, providing green cards for highly educated professionals with advanced degrees in science and engineering from American universities is a primary focus. It’s one that we have been working on for well over a decade.

TI needs to access that talent to stay competitive. In 2013, 65 percent of Ph.D.s and 57 percent of master’s degrees awarded in electrical engineering from U.S. schools went to foreign students.

In Texas alone, the economy is poised to add nearly 760,000 STEM-related jobs within the next four years. Nationally, demand for scientists and engineers will increase four times faster than for all other positions over the next decade.

Many foreign nationals who receive degrees from American universities would like to stay and contribute to our economy, but current law makes it very difficult to hire and retain them. In the end, our system encourages talented people to leave this country and take their knowledge and skills — much of it learned at public institutions right here in the United States — elsewhere.

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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…