Many lawmakers think the answer to the economic downturn is to cut worker visa programs or make them more difficult to use. This is a mistake – a misunderstanding of U.S. labor needs and of the role of immigrant workers in sustaining jobs for Americans.
The recession does nothing to change the fundamental demographic and educational shifts driving 21st century America's need for foreign workers: declining U.S. fertility rates, escalating baby-boom retirement, an ever more educated domestic workforce, lagging interest among American students in science and engineering.
Even in the recession, many employers still can't find the workers they need to sustain their businesses. Few native-born workers are applying for low-level jobs in agriculture, food processing or home health care. Few seem interested in traveling to do seasonal work.
Visa programs must be carefully designed to guard against abuses and adverse effects on the U.S. workforce. But if anything, foreign workers often help keep American workers employed. Every H-2B crab picker on Maryland's Eastern shore supports 2.5 jobs for native-born workers. Every farm job in the U.S. – many filled by foreign workers on H-2A visas – sustains 3.5 non-farm jobs. And with every H-1B visa issued, American technology companies create five jobs for other workers.
The U.S. will need even more worker visas when the economy begins to recover.
ImmigrationWorks opposes cuts to existing temporary worker programs. It opposes legislation, such as the H1B-visa reform proposed by Sens. Dick Durbin and Charles Grassley, that would make existing programs more bureaucratic or costly. On the contrary, IW supports streamlining these programs and making them more transparent and easy to use. It supports the returning worker exemption for H2B visa holders. And it is skeptical of a union-backed plan that would create a commission to set visa quotas.
American Enterprise Institute and Partnership for a New American Economy, Immigration and American Jobs, December 2011.
Harry J. Holzer, "Immigration policy and less-skilled workers in the United States," Migration Policy Institute, January 2011.
Center for American Progress, "Replacing The Undocumented Workforce," April 2006.
National Foundation For American Policy, "Making The Transition From Illegal To Legal," November 2003.
Letter to Sen. Diane Feinstein from ImmigrationWorks USA IW AGJOBS LETTER.
American Immigration Lawyers Association, "Highly Educated Foreign Professionals: Vital To U.S. Competitiveness," May 2008.
National Foundation for American Policy, Policy Brief, "Driving Jobs And Innovation Offshore: The Impact Of High-Skill Immigration Restrictions On America," December 2007.
James S. Holt, "Farm Labor Shortages And The Economic Evidence Of The Declining Competitiveness Of U.S. Fruit And Vegetable Producers: A White Paper," April 2009.
American Farm Bureau Federation, Backgrounder, "Ensure A Legal Workforce," March 2009.
American Immigration Lawyers Association, "H-2B Seasonal And Temporary Workers Vital To America’s Small And Seasonal Businesses," May 2008.
SaveSmallBusiness.org, "The H-2B Program: Separating Myth From Reality," Spring 2008.