The Immigration Debate pt.1

Immigration reformRepublican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich recently sparked the immigration debate by commenting during a GOP debate last week that the US should have a “humane” immigration policy.  Gingrich has since clarified his position by stating to multiple media outlets that “I am not for amnesty for anyone. I am not for a path to citizenship for anybody who got here illegally…But I am for a path to legality for those people whose ties run so deeply in America that it would truly be a tragedy to try and rip their family apart.

The U.S. is a nation of immigrants

What the former U.S. House Speaker has accomplished with his remarks is that immigration will be one of the prominent issues of the 2012 presidential election. And, why shouldn’t it be?  The U.S. is a nation of immigrants founded upon uniting principles of hard work and determination that lead to prosperity.  Immigration continues to have a profound impact on the current and future size and composition of the U.S. population and the economy.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

And, yes, while the world has changed and threats abound we maintain the technology that used appropriately, and with dignity, can alleviate those threats from those wishing to harm us.

A Positive Force for the Economy

Consider, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, between 1990 and 2010, the number of foreign-born U.S. residents almost doubled from 20 million to 40 million. Immigration directly contributed one-third of U.S. population growth.  About half of the immigrants are in the U.S. labor force.  Only 11 million, about 30 percent, were in the United States illegally. Yet it is this 30 percent that receives most of the attention in the immigration debate.

Conversely looking at the 70 percent of immigrants who are here legally to achieve the American dream, a National Research Council study estimated that immigration raised U.S. gross domestic product (GDP: the value of all goods and services produced), by one-tenth of 1 percent in 1996, increasing that year’s GDP of $8 trillion by up to $8 billion.  Using the same theory from the earlier study estimates that U.S. GDP was $15 trillion in 2010, and immigration contributed up to $15 billion to our GDP.

Now serving 7 billion…

The world population just passed 7 billion people.  Estimates suggest continued world population growth to 9 billion people by 2050.  This growth will likely intensify immigration into U.S. in the foreseeable future – that’s why immigration policy must be fixed now.

Moreover, the U.S. debt crisis will not be surmounted without the help of immigrants continuing to come to the U.S. seeking prosperity. Immigrants creating jobs also contribute by paying U.S. taxes. According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections increasing annual growth in GDP by one tenth of 1 percent each year would reduce the national debt by $1 trillion by 2020.

Simply put, to grow U.S. GDP a net increase is needed in

  1. the size of the labor force,
  2. the number of hours worked and
  3. the quantity and quality of products.

Encouraging legal immigration, particularly among entrepreneurs and skilled workers will increase all three.

Attracting Immigrant Investments in America

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) currently maintains a program, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, to attract immigrant investors.  The U.S. Congress adopted the EB-5 Program over twenty years ago in 1990.

An EB-5 visa may be obtained by an immigrant investor that invests $1 million (or at least $500,000 in a targeted high unemployment and/or rural area) and creates or preserves at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers.

Each year Congress allocates approximately 10,000 immigrant visas to the EB-5 category (including derivative visas for the spouses and minor children of investors).  However, as highlighted in a 2009 DHS-CIS report, less than 1,000 visas are used annually. The report cited the underutilization is caused by a confluence of factors, including program instability, the changing economic environment, and competitive immigrant investor programs offered by other countries. The Office of the DHS-CIS Ombudsman issued a directive that, “In recognition of the present turmoil in the U.S. economy, it is incumbent upon USCIS to take all necessary and appropriate steps to facilitate a healthy, vigorous, and smooth-running employment creation immigrant visa program.”

To be continued…

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Tim Cansler