Executive action on immigration reform does not alleviate the need for a legislative solution. Real, meaningful reform can only come through substantive legislation.
Our current immigration policies are outdated and decidedly ineffective, and changes must be implemented soon. Immigration reform is a complex and highly emotional issue, but it must not be ignored any longer. Congress must take action soon.
Our immigration system has gone practically untouched for the last 40 years. Enforcing outdated policies that no longer meet the needs of our modern American economy is what has led to the upsurge in illegal immigration.
Congress needs to lead the charge in passing substantive immigration reform that will drive economic growth and create jobs. We need an immigration system that focuses on market-based visa programs that provide the tools and an essential labor pool of the best talent for our American industries to meet growing labor demands.
New business is key to growing the economy and job creation. However, the prevalence of American-born entrepreneurs is declining, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE). Hispanic immigrant entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have grown exponentially in the country and played a key role in growth during the recent recession. It is time to develop a visa program that appeals to immigrant entrepreneurs, who are more than twice as likely as native-born Americans to start a new business.
Visa programs for high-skilled workers must be streamlined to provide the needed workforce of professional workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Immigrant students make up a surprising share of STEM students in U.S. universities, and with a lack of available American-born workers in STEM fields, we must retain these students once they graduate. Removing unnecessary burdens and arbitrary country quotas will allow these talented immigrant graduates to remain in the United States and help our STEM industry to continue to be competitive and innovative in this global market.
Immigrants are needed to fill America’s less-skilled labor gap as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 63 percent of new jobs created between 2008 and 2018 will require a high school degree or less. But the number of less-skilled, young Americans is declining because more of these individuals are going to college. Manufacturers are becoming more reliant on skilled immigrant workers for on-the-line jobs. Reforming the lower-skilled visa program will help manufacturers fill necessary open positions and maintain their current workforce.
An executive order cannot fix these problems with our current system. We need market-based solutions. It is time to develop immigration policies that are flexible enough to meet changing market demands. We need to structure our immigration system around merit-based visa programs that value hard work and skill rather than arbitrarily allowing in, or dismissing, immigrants because of the country they are from. This will make for a much more economically sound policies that are required by today’s economy.
It is my hope that Congress will begin work on their legislative proposals now. It absolutely must be a priority of the new Congress early next year.