Restauranteur: Meaningful immigration reform needed this year

In Oklahoma, immigrants are making a significant mark in starting new businesses. Despite accounting for 5.5 percent of the state’s population, 7 percent of the state’s business owners are foreign born.

Oklahoma’s foreign-born entrepreneurs generate more than $475 million in annual revenue, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. Economic contributions such as this demonstrate the importance of immigration reform. We must implement common-sense reforms that will boost the economy.

New businesses are responsible for a majority of the creation of new jobs in this country. As Oklahoma continues to struggle against a recession along with the rest of the nation, entrepreneurs are a critical component to economic success.

Many immigrants are creating jobs in manufacturing, construction and agriculture. Every worker is responsible for creating additional jobs. For immigrants working in the non-agricultural industries who are here under the H-2B seasonal worker visa program, every 100 laborers create 183 jobs for American workers.

Farm workers create jobs in downstream fields such as packaging, marketing, sales and transportation. These are the types of jobs sought by U.S.-born workers, as they provide stable employment with higher salaries. As more young adults pursue higher education, we’re seeing diminishing numbers of unskilled or low-skill workers. This is leading to a labor crisis.

U.S. visa programs to fill the labor shortages aren’t well suited to resolve this crisis. For the highly skilled and more educated workers, H-1B visas are subject to an annual limit that isn’t based on market needs. In years of particularly high demand, such as 2007 and 2008, a lottery system was used that eliminated 178,000 applications from consideration.

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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…