Expand the Number of Green Cards, Expand the U.S. Economy

Expand the Number of Green Cards, Expand the U.S. Economy
Story Stream
recent articles

When high-skilled visa holders choose to work in the United States, they create more wealth that all Americans can benefit from. Why then is the Trump Administration moving ahead with a plan to stop granting work permits to families of high-end immigrant workers? There can only be one loser - the U.S. economy.

The strength of an economy, and the ability of its entrepreneurs to obtain needed capital, depends on the skills of its workforce. High-skill workers don’t take jobs; they make it possible to create them. When a skilled worker leaves the United States, or chooses not to go there, the U.S economy doesn’t save a job - it loses a job creator.

But the loss of spousal work permits could imperil the ability of families to remain in the United States, or deter them from entering in the first place. Since the introduction of a federal regulation in 2015 that allows spouses of high-skilled workers to take a job while awaiting a green card, more than 90,000 immigrants have been approved for work permits. President Trump promised early in his administration to scrap the program, but Washington has been slow to implement the change. Now, a Court of Appeal has ordered that a case appealing the decision move forward. As a result, the U.S economy may soon find itself with a long string of holes it cannot fill.

The uncertainty surrounding the program could prompt tens of thousands of well-educated workers to leave the United States, slowing U.S technological development - instead, boosting the countries where the immigrants end up.

It is important to keep in mind that the government only grants green cards in the first place in cases where no American who is qualified for the high-skill job is available. No American is being denied a job as a result of this program, but many could lose their job or fail to obtain one if it is eliminated.

The crackdown on green card spouses continues a trend of discouraging immigration. The goal ostensibly is to ensure more jobs for current Americans, but the result is the exact opposite. That giant sucking sound is not semi-skilled jobs going to Mexico; it is highly skilled people leaving the United States.

Instead of a ‘no trespassing’ sign to those able and willing to bring technological and entrepreneurial skills, it makes more sense to hang out a welcome mat.

Companies want and need more skilled people to draw from, not fewer. The San Jose area is a good example. It is the fastest growing economy in the United States. (For that matter, its economic growth rates are greater than China’s.) As the mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo explains: “What encourages an employer to plant a seed and water it is the availability of talented, creative people.” A thick labor pool, characterized by a diverse range of skills, willingness to bear wider responsibilities, and capable of embracing new technologies, is crucial - and often depends on immigration.

The number of jobs in economy is not fixed. Immigration increases an economy’s size, and spawns new jobs. Those who think cutting back on immigration will reduce unemployment and increase wages should think again. The relative decline in the working age population will enhance pressure for increased productivity, ramping up the introduction of new technologies at an even faster clip.

The formula for economic growth includes an ever-expanding base of human and financial capital. Restrictive immigration rules do not offer a magic solution.

Allan Golombek is a Senior Director at the White House Writers Group. 

Show comments Hide Comments

Related Articles