Immigrants to America - VILLAINS OR HEROES?
Whenever we talk about legal immigration to the United States, a little-addressed subject about immigrants is how beneficial they are to the United States. Efforts to reduce legal immigration, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, will keep families apart, hurt public health and economic recovery efforts. This policy of reduction, which began in the past government and which, administratively, remains in place during the current government (since the vast majority of American consulates remain closed or do not accept immigration interviews), is responsible for a great negative impact for society and for American economy.
New arrivals to the US help drive business creation, foster innovation, meet the essential needs of the country's workforce and, most importantly, strengthen the middle class. Family-based immigration promotes family unity and integration, all core principles and values not only for Americans but for all nationalities. A united family helps to maintain and seek emotional control of its members, encourage educational and professional development, improve relationships between people and develop the community's moral and ethical values.
On the other hand, humanitarian immigration also plays an important role in the nation's development, translating values and solidifying foundations for human and equitable social growth among the population. Humanitarianism protects and exposes a society's values, increasingly attracting new people and qualified professionals, and people who seek the development and dissemination of good, whether through new technologies or even mass public health. Examples can be seen in cases such as sustainable solar luminaires to help nations in need or solutions to help fight drought and hunger in the world.
Finally, professional immigration enhances the country's technological capacity, develops the educational system, collaborates intensely with science, develops important sectors of industry, strengthens the economy, generates jobs and attracts international investments, capitalizing on the so-called FDI (foreign direct investment), a very important capital, as it is foreign money entering the nation's public funds. In addition, professional immigration helps certain sectors of the industry with a shortage of skilled labor such as IT, healthcare, aviation and more.
In this sense, the success of United States, comes in large part, from a longstanding tradition of encouraging people seeking a better life to leave everything they know to contribute to the development of the America. Severely limiting legalized immigration, whether family, humanitarian or professional, puts the country's development, whether economic or social, at risk. Thus, it is important to protect and expand current levels of legal immigration and work towards passing a reform that makes the process safer, faster and more efficient. Restricting legal immigration will limit the country's ability to respond, for example, effectively, to international technological competition, public health crises and economic problems, such as the crisis caused by the coronavirus, which has already left hundreds of thousands of people dead and a devastating amount of unemployed workers.
Another relevant aspect is the mistake of believing that the United States does not need immigration to increase its population. Between 2010 and 2020, the United States saw its slowest population growth since the 1930s. This means that, although the population is growing, it is growing more slowly and at lower rates, even in risk of decreasing. Factors that impact these numbers are, for example, the fact that fewer children have been born in recent years and the reduction in immigration levels. In this sense, legalized immigration is necessary, not only to increase the size of the US population, but also to increase it in a controlled and qualified manner, to maintain a senior to working-age ratio for growing the U.S. economy.
Another misconception is that legal immigration harms American workers, taking away jobs and reducing wages. It is important to remember that the legislation determines a maximum number of immigration visas per year, thus controlling the flow of immigrants. In recent years, for example, 140,000 visas have been made available for professional immigration (Employment Based), and not even all visas have been used. In this sense, the proportion of 140,000 professionals per year (with the professional's family members also falling into this number) due to an economically active population of 150 million, represents less than 0.1% of the working and active population. Therefore, they do not represent harmful competition to the market.
Furthermore, these immigrant professionals are placed in areas in need, going through a rigorous labor certification process or sometimes through an analysis of their professional capabilities and nation's interest in their work continuity plan in the United States. In addition, the vast majority of immigrants have an entrepreneurial profile and perseverance to achieve their goals, open new businesses and create jobs, increasing opportunities for Native American workers, increasing wages and strengthening the middle class. As the US economy begins to reopen, job creation will be critical to boosting the recovery of communities across the country.
A very common myth is to believe that immigrants are a drain on the American economy and reducing legal immigration would make the economy stronger. The United States needs immigrants to stay competitive and drive economic growth. Immigrants are innovators, job creators and consumers with enormous purchasing capability who drive the economy and create employment opportunities for all Americans.
Another strong point in advocating legal immigration is that immigrants tend to be skilled in their fields. Statistics show that 43% of newly arrived families have a college degree, compared to 29% of Native Americans. More than half of the educational degrees awarded by universities in the United States, in areas called “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), go to international students. These students, who become or are professionals, for the most part, do not have favorable immigration paths to stay in the country and end up returning with technical training and a lot of knowledge, no longer being an opportunity for economic and social development in the United States.
Immigrants generate tax revenue. To give you an idea, in 2019 alone, immigrants paid US$492.4 billion in state, local and federal taxes. This money funds schools, hospitals, emergency response services, highways, and other essential public services. Increasing legalized immigration, in this sense, would not only be a good channel to increase the inflow of foreign capital into the country permanently (non-speculative), but would also represent an increase in tax collection for governments at all levels, improving the condition of service to the population in all sectors.
Many US companies hire foreign professionals to complement their workforce, using a combination of employment-based permanent immigration visas (called "green cards") and temporary visas. Research shows that immigrant workers do not harm native workers' wages, on the contrary, they supplement them. In this sense, the stimulation of qualified immigration, mainly of professionals who have continuity plans in the country that are under the national interest, as beneficiaries of the Employment Based visa of first preference (EB1-A) called professionals with extraordinary abilities and those of second nature preferably, within the American national interest, (EB2 NIW), they are an extremely important tool for the sustainable development of the country.