Curbing Legal Immigration Hurts the Economy

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump frequently repeated a promise to achieve four percent GDP growth. This is an ambitious goal, so one would expect the Trump administration to increase its odds of success by implementing economic policies universally designed to stoke GDP. While many of the president’s stances on the regulatory regime facing business can be seen as promoting economic gains, his stance on legal immigration could both inhibit short-term growth and jeopardize America’s status as an innovation hub in the long term.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that 77 percent of CEOs say their growth is threatened by a lack of availability of key skills. That response aligns with other research, including an Adecco prediction that we will be short 2.4 million STEM workers by next year and a WSJ finding that employers are spending more time training workers than they were a year ago.

With talent gaps this significant, the obvious solution is to tap into existing pools of trained, skilled workers, in other words, to bring foreign workers to U.S. companies. Indeed, foreign workers already hold one in five STEM jobs in the United States.

But Trump administration policies seek to limit legal immigration from several countries and make it more difficult to secure H-1B visas (those for high-skilled employees) across the board. These actions have already proven detrimental: 21 percent of U.S. companies are relocating work overseas because of difficult immigration laws at home. If the goal is to grow the economy, why make it harder for American companies to secure labor?

The benefits of facilitating immigration, however, go beyond filling roles at existing U.S. companies. Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants have been a powerful economic force in part because of the businesses they establish. Today, immigrant-founded companies account for 18 percent of those in the Fortune 500; these businesses alone generate $1.7 trillion in annual revenue and employment for more than 3.6 million people worldwide. In the United States overall, one in 10 workers is employed by an immigrant-owned business.

By Dick Burke for THE HILL
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