Contrary to what some would have us believe, immigration reform is a path to economic growth, embraced by a significant group of influential conservatives who understand that America risks losing its competitive edge to countries around the world that are growing and are our competitors.
Leading conservatives such as Grover Norquist (founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform) and Al Cardenas (chair of the American Conservative Union) and hundreds of other similar opinion leaders throughout the country gathered recently in Washington, D.C., to send their message of promoting economic growth, lowering deficits, supporting innovation, and developing a more skilled workforce to Congress.
The Congressional Budget Office also found that immigration reform would spur economic expansion. Simply put, enacting sensible immigration reform is the single greatest opportunity we have to insure the future economic growth of our nation. The United States must remain competitive in a global economy where so many emerging countries are now competing for world economic pre-eminence.
Several recent studies, one by the Center for American Progress) and the most recent by the Bipartisan Policy Center, among others, show that immigration reform will increase GDP by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade and would decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the next two decades. Higher personal incomes of newly legalized immigrant workers would generate increased consumer spending enough to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs in the US. New immigration of 100,000 per year would preserve 4,600 American manufacturing jobs and grow U.S. housing wealth by $80 billion annually.
In New Jersey, minimally, the 10-year cumulative increase in gross state product would be $50 billion and increased earnings would be $30 billion. Reform would create 7,200 jobs annually in our state. The H-1B visa program (visas for high skilled technical jobs) would add 4,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) type jobs in 2014 alone and 20,000 by 2020. In a state that is becoming increasingly attractive to these kinds of industries (New Jersey led the nation in high tech job creation in 2012), the need to attract and retain highly skilled workers is critical to our competitiveness and our future economy.
The U.S. is falling behind much of the world in population growth. We are following the path of many Asian and European nations with lower birth rates and family sizes.
For the past 40 years the number of seniors for every working age adult has been constant at 20 seniors for every 100 working age adults. Over the next 20 years, there will be 34 seniors for every 100 working age adults. Countries with declining population growth rates, such as Japan, have seen their economies shrink in correlation to their population decline. Countries experiencing these declining trends and are in danger of the same economic deceleration.
Immigration will expand our economy in key economic sectors. In the STEM industries for example, immigrants are essential to filling the massive shortfall of highly skilled workers our economy needs. Right now, if every American graduate with an advanced high tech degree fills an available job, we would still face a projected worker shortfall in STEM industries of more than 200,000 by the year 2018. Jobs in these industries have grown three times as fast as jobs in the rest of our economy over the past 10 years. Immigrants are also innovators. More than 76 percent of the patents at the top 10 patent-producing universities are held by immigrants.
In agriculture, 80 percent of all seasonal workers are foreign born. There is a severe shortage of native manual farm laborers. Picture our country without the labor force necessary to support agriculture. Will we become dependent on foreign countries for food as we had become dependent for energy?
In manufacturing, the data shows that for every 1,000 immigrants living in a country, 46 manufacturing jobs are created or preserved. Immigration has accounted for a majority of job growth in the four of five U.S. counties that have experienced the greatest increase in manufacturing jobs since 1970. The more than 40 million immigrants in the United States have created or preserved 1.8 million manufacturing jobs.
Extensive data demonstrates immigration reform is the path for growth. The numbers reaffirm what we already know. That is that during each of our nation’s growth periods, agriculture in colonial times, our industrial revolution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the post World War II expansion, smart immigration policies enabled the United States to lead the world in growth and economic prosperity. Now, in the technological and global economy age, where competition is fierce and barriers to entry are less onerous, we must once again open our country and our markets to the initiative, ingenuity, and expertise of immigrants.
So whether you are a conservative, liberal or lie somewhere in between, immigration reform works for you because it works for America. Immigration reform, the time is now.
Prunetti is president and CEO of the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce. The chamber will sponsor a panel on immigration reform on Thursday, December 12.