The President is taking action, within his legal authority, to fix our broken immigration system. America needs a 21st century immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants -- and that grows our economy.
According to an analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, the President’s executive actions on immigration stand to boost the nation’s GDP by $90 billion to $210 billion, while shrinking the Federal deficit by $25 billion over the next ten years. These actions will also increase the productivity and wages of all American workers, not just immigrants.
Many of these economic benefits spring from the President’s actions to “make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy.” We need to build on our strengths -- after all, over one-quarter of all U.S.-based Nobel laureates over the past 50 years were foreign-born, and more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.
But for too long, our broken immigration system has made it needlessly difficult for America to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world. Highly skilled workers often have to wait years, even decades, to obtain the green cards that will allow them to fully contribute to our economy and become Americans over time. Entrepreneurs have no dedicated immigration pathway that allows them to grow their companies and create jobs here. And every year, we educate some of the world’s most talented students at our universities, only to compel them to go back to their home countries to compete against us.
Here are the key things that the President’s executive actions will do to improve the immigration system for high-skilled workers, graduates, and entrepreneurs:
Unlocking the talents of highly skilled Americans-in-waiting: Most high-skilled immigrants get started on a temporary work visa (typically the H-1B visa), and if there are no American workers qualified and available to do the job, the employer can sponsor that worker for lawful permanent residence—commonly called a “green card.” But the wait for that green card can last years, even decades, even after their application is approved. During this time the worker is effectively locked into one position at the sponsoring company. The President’s actions will make it possible for these highly skilled workers and certain spouses to obtain a portable work authorization, allowing them to accept promotions, change positions or employers, or start new companies while they and their families wait to receive their green cards, and ultimately become Americans.
Clearing the path for job-creating entrepreneurs: The President’s actions will, for the first time, clarify dedicated immigration pathways for entrepreneurs who seek to start and grow their companies here. Entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue within the United States will be eligible for temporary status or a green card. More than ever before, these “startup visa” pathways will allow the world’s most promising and innovative entrepreneurs to innovate and hire here in America.
Retaining the scientists and engineers we educate here. Our universities train some of the world’s most talented students in science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but our broken immigration system compels many of them to take their skills back to their home countries. The President’s actions will strengthen and extend on-the-job training for STEM graduates from U.S. universities, giving them a limited but more reasonable period of time to fully realize their course of study.
The President has also issued a new directive to make sure that his Administration is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to modernizing our system of managing and issuing visas more effectively in order to improve the employment-based immigration system, as well as other pieces of our immigration system.
These are commonsense steps, but only Congress can finish the job. As the President acts, he’ll continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive, bipartisan bill—like the one passed by the Senate more than a year ago—that can replace these actions and fix the whole system.