The case for immigration reform

By Makai McClintock

From an economic perspective, the battle over immigration reform is truly baffling, especially given the clear role that immigrants have played in growing and bolstering the United States economy. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants, as well as many millions of smaller enterprises.
These companies collectively produce over $5 trillion in revenue, a figure greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of every country in the world outside of the U.S. aside from China and Japan.

It is worth noting that the economic contributions of immigrants are not limited to Fortune 500 companies. The 2012 issue of “The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science,” quoted in The Atlantic, found that “immigrants not only add to large or high-tech cities and metros but also to older, more economically hard put communities and rural towns.”
Additionally, immigrants contribute to more than 25 percent of patents worldwide and make up nearly a quarter of the total science and engineering workforce in the U.S. These foreign-born science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers benefit the U.S. economy significantly; according to Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, “research shows that every 100 additional foreign-born workers in STEM jobs created 262 additional jobs for native U.S. workers.”

The impact of immigrants has been particularly profound in the tech industry; to date, 1/4 of high tech start-ups have been founded by an immigrant or their children, including Google, Flickr, eBay and Yahoo.

Failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform, which would allow greater numbers of skilled immigrants into the country, will certainly hurt the U.S. economy in the long run. The U.S. currently lets in about 225,000 foreigners each year. This figure is much lower than many other global economic superpowers.
The facts are simple: there are talented and driven foreign workers and innovators who want to come to America. By turning them away, we are hurting the U.S. economy.

Given the current state of the economy, where jobs are still hard to come by for many Americans, the very notion that jobs are being “stolen” from Americans by immigrants has fueled a conservative backlash that threatens to further restrict immigration. This belief, however, has been widely discredited by economists on both sides of the political spectrum. A 2011 study by the American Enterprise Institute found that foreign-born workers have no effect on the U.S. employment rate.
Furthermore, according to a White House report, if undocumented immigrants were to acquire legal status this year, over the course of ten years the U.S. GDP would be increased by $1.4 trillion, Americans’ income would rise by $791 billion, state and federal governments would gain $184 billion in additional tax dollars and the U.S. economy would add roughly 2 million jobs.

When it comes to the issue of immigration reform, the fact of the matter is simple: the greatest danger we face from immigrants is having too few of them.

Passing comprehensive immigration reform will help to spark innovation and economic growth for years to come, ensuring that the U.S. remains a land of plentiful economic opportunity. We simply cannot afford to turn away immigrants based on unfounded and spurious claims of a minority of Americans who clearly do not understand the overwhelming positive economic effects of immigration.


Makai McClintock is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]