Can Immigrants Help Jumpstart U.S. Economy? Senators and Study Say Yes

Can the U.S. tepid economy get healthy? Absolutely, if the right policies are put in place. But the performance of many members in Congress is questionable.

Before explaining why, let’s consider some good news: Some Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate have worked together and introduced a bill in 2012 designed to help the economy.

Now, the bad news: The bill has died.

Yes, members of the Senate introduced bipartisan legislation, Startup Act 2.0, which would make it easy for tech-minded immigrants to stay in the U.S. after they launch new businesses. It’s co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.); Chris Coons (D-Del.); Jerry Moran (R-Kan.); and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

akeeris at www.freedigitalphotos.netImmigrant stays are typically limited to six years.

In 2011, immigration policy was eased to allow immigrants to launch companies that would sponsor their own H-1B visas. So, the lawmakers wanted to take another step in immigration reform.

However, detractors of the bill worried what to do with the immigrants if their enterprises fail – a common worry about any new business.

Meantime, immigration reform would have led to significant benefits for the U.S. economy, according to a group of business leaders and bipartisan mayors. The group, Partnership for a New American Economy, released a study 2012 concluding that in 2011 foreign-born inventors were responsible for 76 percent of patents at the top 10 universities that spawn patents.

The obvious conclusion: The new companies that evolve from such patents create jobs and enhance the nation’s economic climate. Patents include metals that can be molded like plastic and better ways to purify seawater.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the partnership co-chair, asserts the results are “indisputable proof of the enormous contribution of immigrants in developing the new technologies and ideas needed to renew the U.S. economy and create American jobs.”

“American universities are doing their part in attracting and educating the world’s top minds, but our broken immigration laws continue to push them to our competitors,” he added.

The 2012 30-page report is entitled, “Patent Pending: How Immigrants Are Reinventing the American Economy.”

The University of California was No.1 among U.S. universities in generating patents – 369.

The study’s salient conclusions:

  • More than three out of every four patents at the top 10 patent-producing US universities (76 percent) had at least one foreign-born inventor.
  • More than half of all patents (54 percent) were awarded to the group of foreign inventors most likely to face visa hurdles: students, postdoctoral fellows, or staff researchers.
  • Foreign-born inventors played especially large roles in cutting-edge fields like semiconductor device manufacturing (87 percent), information technology (84 percent), pulse or digital communications (83 percent), pharmaceutical drugs or drug compounds (79 percent), and optics (77 percent).
  • The almost 1,500 patents awarded to these universities boasted inventors from 88 different countries.

Previously, the group issued another study showing how other countries have designed immigration-recruitment strategies to benefit their economies. The nations include Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The nine countries admit from 60 to 80 percent of foreign students on economic needs while the U.S. opens its doors to 7 percent for economic reasons.

As part of the advocacy for immigration reform, more than 100 university presidents sent a letter to Congressional leaders and President Obama advocating a bipartisan immigration solution.

The group’s recommendations:

  1. Granting permanent residency (green cards) to foreign students who earn graduate degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, where 99 percent of the patents naming a foreign-born inventor were issued.
  2. Creating a visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs having U.S. investors and wanting to start companies employing U.S. employees.
  3. Raising or removing the cap on H-1B visas, currently set at 65,000 (the group notes that the 2012 cap was hit in only 10 weeks).

My sense is the group was right. It’s been widely believed for years that America needs more students majoring in science, engineering, mathematics and technology. They’re not being homegrown. In the main, American kids aren’t interested.

In another article, Keys to Economic Development: Managing Ignorance, I wrote:

“America’s expertise in science and technology is fast deteriorating, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences. The report was written by a group of top corporate executives, educators and scientists and is entitled, “Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.”

In essence, the panel of experts sets four goals:

  • Improve math and science education in grades K-12.
  • A more cordial milieu for science for college and post graduate studies.
  • Increase federal funding for scientific research.
  • Encourage the growth of family-wage jobs in evolving industries with tax incentives and other fiscal tools.

It wasn’t surprising that the report identified two Asian countries, India and China, as among the nations that will surpass the U.S. in job creation and innovation.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related topics:

“Why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as well as prohibition did, in five years Americans would be the smartest race of people on Earth.”

-Will Rogers 


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.