Monica Lozano is Chair of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program. The views and opinions of the author are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.
President Trump was elected in some part due to economic challenges for low-skilled workers in this country. It is not as easy as it once was for people with a high school diploma to find a job that pays enough to make a living. The president and his allies in Congress seek to address this problem by reforming the immigration system to reduce overall legal immigration by half and favor high skilled workers for the remaining available green cards.
But the facts just don’t add up. The economic rationale for reducing legal immigration is that low skilled immigrants and family members of current green card holders are coming to this country and taking jobs that could go to native-born citizens. Yet while immigrants are often blamed for unemployment among native-born workers, the jobs they create through productivity goes unnoticed. At a time where the country’s unemployment rate is at 4.3 percent and there are a record-high 6 million open jobs, we accomplish nothing by further restricting immigration.
It’s not just about the labor market. Immigrants have a huge impact on the overall growth and strength of the American economy as a whole. According to the Kauffman Foundation, “from 2006 to 2012, more than two-fifths of the start-up tech companies in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder.” This level of engagement from immigrants goes beyond self-profiting. The Kauffman Foundation also found that “Immigrant founded engineering and technology firms employed approximately 560,000 workers and generated $63 billion in sales in 2012.”
Beyond the economic argument is a question of the values and character of Americans. Are we still a nation that is bound to the idea that free people, given the opportunity, can make a better future for themselves and this country?
I believe this country stands by this sacred and foundational idea. Our family-based immigration system has served our nation well and we should retain the underlying principles of the system that are true to our American values and spirit. Our nation thrives and our economy prospers as a land of opportunity for people irrespective of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, or educational attainment.