Over 100 Economists Call for Immigration Reform

May 23, 2013

In an open letter to Congressional leaders, more than 100 economists call for “broad-based” (A.K.A. comprehensive) immigration reform. The letter lays out the economic and social benefits of reform:

Immigration reform is an opportunity to improve the Nation’s security, address domestic safety and crime, and remove legal clouds from employers and undocumented residents alike. As well, it is an opportunity to improve the long-term prospects for economic growth, enhance the skills of the U.S. labor force, and augment the flexibility of the Nation’s labor market.

The economists urge Congress to pass a “reform bill that includes a U.S. visa system more attuned to economic policy objectives.” This will “promote economic growth and ease the challenge of reforming unsustainable federal health and retirement programs.”

Signers include former Secretary of State George Schultz, American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Art Laffer who served in the Reagan administration, and Nobel Prize winner Edward Prescott.

The Washington Post also understands that immigration reform will help drive economic growth. In an editiorial, it commented on the comprehensive immigration bill that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee:

[T]he legislation would reshape the nation’s broken-down, irrational immigration system in ways that would bear fruit for decades. After years of denial, it would recognize the nation’s competitive need for foreign workers in high-tech, agriculture and low-skilled occupations….

Our neighbor to the north, Canada, understands the global competition for talent. The Salt Lake Chamber posted a photo of a billboard advertising: “H-1B Problems? PIVOT to CANADA.”

This billboard is also running in Silicon Valley. Canada's minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, told the AP, “Canada is open for business; we're open for newcomers.”

And they’re coming after foreign talent currently in the U.S. because of our broken immigration system.

Salt Lake City immigration attorney Tim Wheelwright noted, “This is a stark reminder of how we’re only hurting ourselves in a global competition for talent. Our competitors see this as an area where they have an advantage.”

To address this specific concern about high-skilled immigrants, Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the SKILLS Visa Act that, among other things, increases the number of H-1B visas for temporary workers to 155,000 a year.

While a good step forward, this doesn’t remove the need for comprehensive immigration reform to address the demand for labor of all skill levels. 

The 100+ economists who signed the open letter remind us that immigration reform will be an economic good. By making immigration laws fit the needs of our economy and society we’ll see a faster-growing economy and a more secure nation.

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