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Immigration: The Key to a Booming, Green Economy

Jun25
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Immigration: The Key to a Booming, Green Economy

If there is one thing on which economists, analysts, and researchers seem to agree, it is this: Immigration is essential to keeping American business at the top of the international business market, especially in the energy and engineering sectors. Indeed, even some politicians, such as New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), have recognized the important role immigration has to play in American business. According to Mayor Bloomberg, “Our immigration policy is national suicide. I can’t think of any ways to destroy this country quite as direct and impactful as our immigration policy. We educate the best and the brightest and then we don’t give them a green card. We want to create jobs and we won’t let entrepreneurs from around the world come here.”

It is for that reason that Senators Kerry and Lugar have introduced the Startup Visa Act. The Startup Visa Act proposes legislation that would modify the EB-5 Visa to increase job creation and America’s international business competitive edge. Immigrant entrepreneurs who are creating new businesses would be able to obtain visas, so long as there is investment capital from within the U.S. of at least $100,000 and equity financing of at least $250,000.

A new Migrant Policy Institute Report, The Impact of Immigrants in Recession and Economic Expansion, found that “immigration unambiguously improves employment, productivity and income,” although it does require some short-term adjustments, such as job training or new technology. Despite common conceptions among Americans, immigration does not reduce Americans’ employment rates over the long-term (ten years). But it does increase Americans’ productivity and the average income over the same period. In fact, immigration between 1990 and 2006 is credited with a 2.9{b6b8f04f7bd4b863c4cfed8339fd19419bda3e071c79bc5ac8c810cb9c52e30f} wage increase among American workers. Still, immigration during a recession can have short-term, negative effects, but those effects dissipate fairly quickly, within seven years at most. In contrast, immigration during economic growth periods has an immediate, positive effect, creating enough jobs to leave Americans’ jobs completely untouched.

Darrell M. West, author of a new book, Brain Gain: Rethinking U.S. Immigration Policy (Brookings Institution Press, 2010), points out that many of America’s greatest scientists, inventors, educators, and entrepreneurs came to the United States as immigrants. He asserts that the U.S. must establish an increased open-door policy to attract unique foreign talent in the fields of energy, information technology, and international commerce. In a review of the book, Mayor Bloomberg recognizes that “the most important step we can take to strengthen America’s long-term economic health is passing comprehensive immigration reform. For America to compete in the 21st Century, we need to be able to attract—and keep—the world’s best, brightest, and hardest working.”

And this seems to be particularly important in the green energy field. A recent report published by the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigraiton Council, authored by Richard T. Herman and Robert L. Smith, Why Immigration Can Drive the Green Economy, discusses how the connection between immigration and the development and commercialization of alternative fuel sources is rarely discussed among policymakers. Yet it is this very connection that will help the United States lead the way towards cleaner, less expensive energy. Although policymakers imagine that the development of renewable energy will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, most fail to understand that much of the clean-energy talent remains abroad. Thus, experts urge that expanding our own clean-energy industry will require working with people overseas, in countries that have been pursuing alternative fuel sources for several decades already. Unfortunately, tough immigration restrictions make this type of foreign collaboration difficult, if not impossible.

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