The Economic Case for Smart Immigration Reform | Commentary
Eduardo Conrado was just 13 years old when his family fled war-torn Nicaragua for Texas. As a teenager and young adult, Eduardo worked hard to make a life for himself, delivering newspapers and working at his school’s cafeteria. He was a diligent student, earning a B.S. in industrial engineering from Texas Tech University and then two master’s degrees in business.
While in graduate school, Eduardo decided to make the United States his permanent home. He became a U.S. citizen in 1990.
Eduardo took full advantage of the freedoms offered to him by the United States. And today, he is a valued senior executive at Motorola Solutions, the world’s leading provider of mission critical communications and technology, which I’m proud to lead. Eduardo brings a uniquely valuable international perspective to his work on our executive committee and as the head of worldwide information technology and marketing.
No immigrant’s story is the same. But Eduardo’s demonstrates a powerful truth. We are a nation of immigrants who make profound contributions to our economy and way of life. And if Washington were to finally fix our country’s broken immigration system, countless others could come to this country and contribute and prosper.
A new report compiled by the Business Roundtable documents the profound effect immigration reform would have on U.S. economic growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. The analysis evaluates a specific set of common-sense policy changes: establishing and strengthening legal channels for immigrant workers who relocate to the United States; providing a legal status for millions of unauthorized immigrants who pay a penalty and meet other requirements; and strengthening enforcement — both at the border and within the county.
The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that reforms along these lines would increase gross domestic product by 4.8 percent over 20 years, relative to the status quo. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that reform would boost real GDP by 5.4 percent by 2033 and add 9 million workers to the labor force.
Importantly, most of the research on this subject shows that incoming immigrants largely complement native-born workers, not replace them. This influx of new labor would spur a rising tide that lifts the entire economy.
The CBO also finds that a common-sense immigration reform package would boost American worker productivity by about 1 percent by 2033. And both the Bipartisan Policy Center and the CBO find that median wages would increase by an additional 0.5 percent over that same period.
The country’s long-term fiscal outlook would also improve under a reformed immigration system.
Policies that bring unauthorized workers out of the shadows and enable them to participate fully in the U.S. economy would help offset the country’s aging workforce and boost government revenue. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that immigration reform would reduce federal deficits by almost $1.2 trillion over 20 years.
Finally, an influx of new immigrants would spur entrepreneurship and innovation.
Immigrants are nearly 50 percent more likely to start a business than native-born Americans. In fact, immigrants or their children founded more than 40 percent of U.S. Fortune 500 companies.
And they’re responsible for more than 25 percent of new businesses in seven of the eight fastest-growing sectors of the economy.
American business leaders understand the essential contributions immigrants make every day to the U.S. economy.
Reformed immigration policies that attract the brightest minds and hardest workers from around the world would help fuel greater economic growth and create more jobs and opportunities for all Americans.
As Eduardo Conrado has said to me, “Immigrants realize that you can only succeed through education and hard work. As they make a life in a new country, they highly value the ability to contribute to their communities and the economy.”
Smart reforms would extend that win-win deal to the benefit of both immigrants and native-born Americans.
Greg Brown is chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions. He leads the Business Roundtable’s select CEO committee on immigration.