Archive for the Skilled immigrants Category.

Immigration and Economics

This post outlines some of the ways in which immigration results in a net gain for the U.S. economy.

Highly skilled immigrants improve productivity:  Highly-skilled immigrants often represent the very top achievers in their countries, and they arrive here with an extremely high level of education.  Their technological skills improve the productivity of the United States.

With their diverse skills, immigrants not only create a wider range of products, but also more jobs for complementary labor, while allowing comparative advantage benefits:  Many immigrants supply skills different from those already available, thereby increasing the supply of diverse labor and contributing to gains in efficiency. They enable the economy to produce a wider variety of goods than it would if the work force were limited. They also increase the demand for labor that complements their skills. It is said, for example, that new immigrant chefs increase the demand for waiters.  One study found that every high-skilled immigrant worker generates three to five supporting or complementary positions.  Society benefits because immigrants efficiently produce goods with low relative prices, allowing Americans to focus on the industries or occupations in which they have a comparative advantage.

Improved demographics: Our current immigration policies favor the young, the risk-takers, the hard-working, and the highly qualified.  Most immigrants are young and single or have young families. This alters U.S. demographics and increases the tax and social security base, supporting our aging population with younger workers who currently require no assistance.  In the long run, revenue generated through taxation of the younger immigrant population will help balance the U.S. budget and reduce the annual deficit and the overall debt without necessarily increasing tax rates.

Benefits from more business investments and trade: Many firms need foreign talent and, if unable to employ foreign workers here, will outsource the work. Keeping this work in the U.S. by admitting immigrant workers will retain investments and jobs in the U.S., create work for support staff, and keep money in the U.S. If trade in goods is advantageous, there is no reason why trade in labor is not advantageous as well, and there is little evidence of adverse cultural results.

Increase consumption: Immigrants need food, shelter, and other goods and services. They become part of the consuming public, adding to the overall consumption and GDP.

Even unskilled workers improve the economy: Unskilled workers allow industry to obtain reasonably-priced labor for work that many Americans are not willing to do or interested in doing. They also improve the supply of labor and generate goods and services at costs consumers can afford, while keeping inflation pressure down.

Studies confirm the benefits: Gauging the effect of immigration is difficult, since we cannot know for sure what might have happened had there been no immigration. Researchers have, however, compared states that accept more immigrants to those that do not, after making allowances for other variables.  In California, where the number of immigrant workers as compared to the entire working population increased by 10%, the average income per worker also increased by 2.6% in real terms over the same period.  Similar results were found in Texas and in New York. Throughout the U.S., and in the long term (defined as approximately ten years), for every inflow of immigrants equal to 1% of the working population, income increases by 0.26%.  Thus, between 1990 and 2006, when immigrants’ share of employment increased 11%, they caused a 2.86% real-wage increase for the average U.S. worker.

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Dear Immigrants: We want your business! Sincerely, Michigan

Much to my delight (and I’m sure to the delight of immigration attorneys across Michigan) Governor Snyder spoke about the positive contributions immigrants make during his State of the State speech in January.  It was a surprise to hear the newly elected Governor speak positively about immigration, an issue that has unfortunately become and increasingly political issue and dogmatic tool. Thankfully, Governor Snyder “gets it.” He understands the tremendous value immigrants contribute directly to our economy. Governor Snyder has publicly stated he opposes Arizona-like (SB-1070) anti-immigration legislation (many thanks to AIR of Michigan for its efforts on this front) and has taken pragmatic steps to increase the appeal of Michigan to foreign business.

Among other actions taken, Governor Snyder has called for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to take an active role in the development of pro-immigration business policy. This is a wonderful step in the right direction. Michigan should be investing its resources not only into bringing tourists here, i.e. the Pure Michigan campaign, but also on attracting and welcoming business investors and employers.

Based on the experience of our clients, the simple step of proactively reaching out to potential and new businesses already committed to Michigan from Square One would be most welcome, and welcoming, to foreign investors. A point of contact should be readily able to guide them through our laws, regulations, cultural norms, and myriad logistical challenges, to anticipate what those challenges may be and equip the business leadership with knowledge and resources that will better enable them to open and oeprate their business successfully, and should be available should an obstacle arise. Of course countless other obstacles and solutions already exist and need to be explored.

Moving beyond the walls of the office, it is imperative that Michigan consider the lives of foreign workers and their families as residents. When an immigrant comes to live and work in the U.S. for a period of a year, or a few years, or several years, it is important to remember that he or she is not just a visa number, or an employee. Rather, he or she is a resident and citizen (small “c”) of Michigan, eager to explore the beauty and culture of our State and Country. This is an aspect of immigration that, I believe, has been overlooked. We should make it as easy as possible not only to get here, but to live here.Yet simple aspects of daily life that Michiganders take for granted are unecessarily challenging for immigrants. Thankfully, solutions are apparent and accessible. For starters, it should be simpler and easier for foreign workers and their families in Michigan to obtain a driver’s license, qualify for in-state college tuition, and understand tax responsibilities.

Currently, the Secretary of State has in place an internal policy to automatically deny any B1/B2 visa holders a license. This is more restrictive than the federal laws and regulations, needlessly. A visitor in this status can be present for up to 18 months – denying him or her the ability to drive, upon paying fees and passing the required tests, makes no sense. How else are they to get around in Michigan, where mass transit is undeniably limited. Assuming he or she can prove legal status, current residence in Michigan, and identity, he or she should be able to obtain a license. This could impact potential foreign investors visiting Michigan for a long period as they explore business investment opportunities and/or family members visiting.

Additionally, for other visa holders, like those in TN, H, E, and L status, the process should be seamless. Yet, the staff at Secretary of State (SOS) branch offices regularly fail to recognize the meaning of documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), improperly questioning the validity of a visa or a person’s status. Any single discrepancy between the SOS and DHS record of names, including an obvious typo cleared up by a passport and other identity documents, results in denial of a driver’s license. SOS staff regularly instruct immigrants they must fix the error with DHS before a license can be issued. Obtaining a new document from DHS for name correction can take months and can be quite expensive. Similarly, immigrants from Latin America and the Middle East treat last names differently from the U.S., in a well-known and predictable manner. For example, an TN visa holder from Mexico will technically have two last names, the last name of her father followed by the last name of her mother. This is simply how it is done in that culture. However, it is extremely common for Latin Americans to use only one of those last names on a regular basis. Despite this widespread, commonplace, predictable practice, SOS branch offices regularly require applicants to provide documentation that matches the SOS system, even if her passport, work authorization card, and birth certificate all evidence her full name. Again, she will be told to rectify the name difference via DHS or Social Security. This is overly restrictive at worst, highly inconvenient at best.

Many foreign workers, their spouses, and children, who are eligible to attend school in Michigan are constructively prevented from doing so due to cost. Although they are residents of Michigan, and are often times home owners, qualifying for “resident” for purposes of receiving in-state tuition rates is burdensome. For those who can even qualify for in-state tuition at all, they must first show payment of Michigan taxes for at least a year. Instead of doing so, or paying extremely high international rates, they simply do not attend at all. Colleges that could be benefitting from their enrollment at any rate, lose out altogether, as does the larger economy to which they could contribute their increased knowledge and skill.

Lastly, foreigners must pay U.S. and Michigan taxes upon residing here for a certain period of time. Generally speaking, foreigners do properly file their taxes, but it is nonetheless a daunting system that may prevent others from paying, or from doing so easily. A section of the State of Michigan Treasury website devoted to immigrants, with simple tools to help determine whether they must file taxes could result in greatly increased tax revenue, and will at least be an attractive resource to foreign workers.

Overall, these are problems that appear minor but that dramatically frustrate the ease with which immigrants move to and integrate into life in Michigan. Yet, the solutions to solve these problems are relatively simple and are certainly easily achievable. Foreign investors are necessarily concerned with the quality of their employees’ lives, and consider the ease of living in a foreign place when selecting locations. Making the lives of investors, business owners, their employees and their families better, will indeed send the signal that not only is Michigan a wonderful place for foreigners to do business, it is a wonderful place for foreigners to live.

With Governor Snyder’s leadership and support, Michigan is poised to lead the 50 States toward an economy that encourages and embraces immigrants, countering the unproductive and misguided anti-immigration trend. Michigan has led the U.S. economy before, and by taking this new course, it will do it again. It is an exciting time to be a proponent of immigration in Michigan and I look forward to witnessing and contributing to the progress.

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DHS: Department of Harassment Specialists

If you think that DHS stands for “Department of Homeland Security,” you may wish to reconsider. I believe that it stands for “Department of Harassment Specialists.”

First, let me make something clear: there is no doubt that the majority of those who work at DHS believe in what they do and think it is for our country’s best interest. Their intentions are noble and they are proud to tell you that they are serving with good conscience. However, history is full of people who thought that they were doing wonderful deeds, but in retrospect we realize that what they did was at best a waste of effort and time, and at worst a cause of great and needless harm to others.

I suspect that many of those who enroll at DHS do so to, in their own minds, protect this country from undesirable aliens. I believe the same can be said of many employees at the State Department. I also suspect that many in the Labor Department who deal with immigration issues act from the point of view that they are protecting the U.S. Labor Force. It appears to me that in the last decade and a half, those well-intentioned Americans have had the misfortune of following leaders in the government, who executed policies which may have been politically expedient but are harmful to who we are as a nation. Fifteen years of the wrong foundation is sufficient to create a situation where a huge bureaucracy has substantially turned into a harassment machine.

I recently read a survey which states that in excess of 99% of DHS’s activities relate to immigration issues and less than 1% relate to security issues. Therefore, the designation of that department as a Homeland Security one is a misnomer. While the public may believe that new hires are taking care of security issues, many are channeled instead to immigration-related activities. Since by its nature, bureaucracy seeks its own justification, most of those spend their time nit-picking and pursuing issues against immigrants who should otherwise be allowed to settle in this country and live normally. The result is huge public expenditure of funds, a giant bureaucracy, and an incalculable waste of effort that involves, in reality, nothing other than harassment of individuals that should, under normal circumstances, be welcome in this country. Hence, you have the detention facilities that are housing good people that have, for whatever reason, overstayed in this country. You have gigantic volumes of paperwork seeking trivial data of people and businesses who should otherwise be allowed to have a better ability to do business in this country. I also believe that the same thing is happening at the State Department, hindering many bright and brilliant overseas students, talented workers, and intelligent people from visiting and enriching this country. I also suspect similar occurrences at the Department of Labor, where a huge bureaucracy is created under the disguise of protecting U.S. workers, when actually a freer trade of high skilled labor force would improve our country’s technology, productivity and efficiency.

In summary, I think that there is a vast number of public servants who are paid by the taxpayers and whose activities are counterproductive to the best interest of those taxpayers, but they simply do not know any better or have not had the right leadership to gear their activities to what is truly beneficial to our country.

With the new administrations intent to tackle immigration reform at this year’s end, and based on a new era of discussion of issues without the use of fear tactics, there may be some hope that this wasteful situation shall change for the better, after all.

Posted in Immigration, security, and fear, Recent Posts, Skilled immigrants | Leave a comment