SHRM, CFGI Join Push for Immigration Reform in 2017

Reason for Reform campaign highlights economic benefits of immigration

By Roy Maurer Aug 15, 2016
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The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Council for Global Immigration (CFGI) joined a coalition of business and municipal leaders to push for immigration reform in 2017, citing a new report showcasing the positive economic impact immigrant populations have on the country.

The Partnership for a New American Economy—founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch—released 51 economic research reports, one for every state plus Washington, D.C.

The coalition launched the Reason for Reform campaign to showcase how immigration impacts local communities across America and the urgency of modernizing our immigration system.

The reports break out demographics, tax contributions, visa demand and immigrants' role in the workforce, compiled from publicly available data, primarily from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Notable statistics from the state reports include that:

  • Immigrants in California founded almost 45 percent of all new businesses started in the state between 2007 and 2011. In 2014, immigrants to California earned $323.2 billion, paid a total of $82.9 billion in taxes and had $238.7 billion in spending power.
  • In 2014, undocumented immigrants in Texas earned $25.4 billion in income, of which $2.8 billion went to taxes, $456.9 million to Medicare and $1.9 billion to Social Security.
  • One-third of all entrepreneurs in Florida are immigrants.
  • Between 2010 and 2014, North Dakota's foreign-born population increased by over 62 percent. For comparison, the U.S. foreign-born population as a whole increased by just 5.8 percent during that period.
  • Over 813,000 immigrants reside in Pennsylvania, and 10 percent of the state's entrepreneurs are foreign-born. Nationally, immigrant entrepreneurs are behind 51 percent of the country's billion-dollar startups and more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
  • Immigrants in Louisiana were 40 percent more likely to have a job than native-born Louisianans. That's primarily because, as in other states, more of the foreign-born population is of working age. In Louisiana, over 72 percent of the foreign-born population is of working age, compared to less than 52 percent of the native-born population.
  • The Michigan industries with the largest share of immigrant workers are computer systems design (25 percent), crop production (19 percent), grocery production (19 percent), post-secondary education (10 percent) and management analysis (13 percent). By absolute numbers, immigrant workers in Michigan are mostly teachers (13,580 workers), mechanical engineers (10,502) workers), physicians (9,150) and agricultural workers (7,762). Immigrants in Michigan, like the country as a whole, tend to be overrepresented in both high-skilled and labor-intensive positions.

Making the Business Case for Immigration Reform

In addition to SHRM and CFGI, the research was co-sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Google, Intel, Microsoft, the Western Growers Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others.

"Immigration will be a top issue for the next president," said John Feinblatt, chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy. "The data … make an unequivocal case—not only do Americans want reform, our economy needs it."

CFGI Executive Director Lynn Shotwell said the reports "are evidence that decades of inaction on immigration reform have held back America's economic growth." She urged the next presidential administration and Congress "to work with employers on bipartisan solutions to fill existing skills gaps and build a 21st century workforce that draws on both domestic and foreign talent."

Randel K. Johnson, senior vice president for labor, immigration, and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cited the importance of data in talking about immigration, especially as "heated debate surrounding immigration issues is continually characterized by distortions of the truth."

Reform advocates have cause for optimism as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has vowed to take on immigration reform within her first 100 days in office. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised to lead on immigration reform if Senate Democrats win in November and he becomes the next majority leader. And House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has favored immigration reform in the past.

Implications for STEM Employers

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are projected to play a key role in U.S. economic growth over the next decade, adding almost 800,000 new jobs and growing 37 percent faster than the U.S. economy as a whole.

This is directly related to the high-skilled immigration issue: For example, immigrant workers in New York in 2014 made up 26.6 percent of the state's STEM workforce, despite making up 22.6 percent of the state's population.

The current immigration system, however, makes it difficult for STEM employers to access and retain the high-skilled workers they need to fill critical positions, said Rebecca Peters, director of government affairs at CFGI. "What's often lost in the debate with this election is the need to reform our legal employment-based immigration system to keep America's economy growing, something these reports shine a spotlight on by looking at the contributions of entrepreneurs, Fortune 500s and those immigrants with STEM degrees."

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