Leadership on Immigration Advances U.S. National Security

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Leadership on Immigration Advances U.S. National Security

Leadership on Immigration Advances U.S. National Security

Last night, President Obama announced an initiative to assert executive leadership on immigration reform in the face of long-stalled action by Congress. His plan would build on progress in securing the border, help highly skilled workers make greater contributions to the economy, and start a program that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to temporarily remain in the United States if they meet certain conditions like paying taxes and passing a criminal background check. These measures – and the need for longer-term fixes through legislation – reinforce American national security by strengthening the economy and solidify America’s powerful demographic geopolitical advantage vis-à-vis other international powers.

Reforming immigration supports a strong economy – the cornerstone of American national security.

Immigrants produce jobs: In a summary of the technical literature, Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations explains, “One study using U.S. census data and American Community Survey data finds that for every 1,000 immigrants in a county, 46 manufacturing jobs are created or preserved. It also found that local housing wealth increased by nearly $100,000 for each new immigrant. This is in part because immigrants are much more likely to file a patent or start a business than native-born Americans.” The Immigration Policy Center elaborates, “Immigrants and native-born workers are usually not competing in the same job markets because they tend to have different   levels of education, work in different occupations, specialize in different tasks, and live in different places. Because they complement each other in the labor market rather than compete, immigrants increase the productivity—and the wages—of native-born workers.” [Shannon O’Neil, 7/11/14. Immigration Policy Center, accessed 11/21/14]

Immigrants sustain America’s high-tech advantage and help the U.S. compete against emerging powers like China: For decades, the United States has benefited from the so-called brain drain by scooping up the best talent from around the world. But unless there’s change with the H-1B visa system – the visa given to skilled workers – and the pathway from H-1B’s to green cards, America may no longer attract and keep the best talent. Michael Malone explains in the Wall Street Journal    that “while H-1B visas have been stuck at about 65,000 a year (plus 20,000 students), that number can be changed with relatively simple moves by the president or Congress. A decade ago the cap stood at 195,000.” Moreover, “up to 1.5 million skilled immigrants and their families who—thanks to visa quotas, bureaucratic sloth and other roadblocks—are trapped in the limbo between H-1B and the green card that earns them permanent residency and a chance for citizenship. At current green-card approval rates…it will take 70 years for them to gain permanent resident status. Most will eventually leave. They’ll add to a   growing brain drain—100,000 skilled immigrants a year [to go to] China, India and other nations.” [Michael Malone, 10/15/14]

Immigration reduces the deficit and sustains America’s global business advantage: Gathering taxes from presently undocumented immigrants, as President Obama has proposed, would decrease the deficit. While the steps President Obama can take are more modest than those included in last year’s Senate immigration bill, that measure    would have reduced the federal deficit by $850 billion over the next 20 years. Moreover, the Partnership for a New American Economy explains that, “Even though immigrants have made up only 10.5 percent of the American population on average since 1850, there are 90 immigrant-founded Fortune 500 companies, accounting for 18 percent   of the list. When you include the additional 114 companies founded by the children of immigrants, the share of the Fortune 500 list grows to over 40 percent” and that “The Fortune 500 companies that boast immigrant or children-of-immigrant founders have combined revenues of $4.2 trillion. $1.7 trillion of that amount comes just from the       companies founded by immigrants.” [Partnership for a New American Economy, accessed 11/20/14]

Immigration supports the United States’ powerful demographic advantage in global geopolitics. As a result of healthy demographic growth driven by immigration, the United States has escaped the kind of demographic crises afflicting other global powers, including Europe’s stagnant population growth and massive demographic crises in Russia and China. A report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, signed by former Secretary for Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, explains: “Many nations, especially those with advanced economies, face significant demographic challenges. Due primarily to declining fertility rates, the populations of these countries are stagnating and, in some cases, even shrinking…In the coming decades, these demographic trends will only accelerate, straining the already-tested economic and social systems of the developed world. As increasing numbers of elderly people exit the workforce, slower population growth leaves fewer young workers to take the jobs they vacate. This makes it difficult to maintain the size of the labor force, which in turn limits the economy’s growth potential and strains social insurance programs that count on workers to support retirees. The United States faces these same challenges, but thanks to immigration trends, has a healthier demographic outlook than most other advanced economies.” [Bipartisan Policy Center, 1/23/14]

Continuing the Obama Administration’s strong record on border security remains a top priority. In his speech, President Obama highlighted the commitment to “build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel.” This follows already significant progress on securing the border. Border security personnel have increased to 21,391 today – up from 17,499 in 2008 – and illegal border crossings are at 40-year lows. Global Security reports, “As of February 10, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security had completed 651 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles mandated by Congress, including 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 352 miles of pedestrian fence.” The federal government has also increased its sophistication of security assets at the border, including “nearly doubling the number of remote video surveillance systems to 273; increasing mobile video surveillance systems from zero prior to Sept. 11, 2001, to 178 today; and deploying 11,863 underground sensors capable of detecting illegal border crossings,” according to reports. [President Obama, 11/20/14. Fedscoop reporting on Jeh Johnson’s presentation at CSIS, 10/10/14]

President Obama addressing the nation on immigration reform. White House, 11/20/14.   

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