On November 15, The Concord Coalition and The Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Service hosted a panel discussion on legal immigration reform aimed at encouraging economic growth, titled “Immigration: Reform for the Future.”
The panel of experts featured Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum Ali Noorani, the American Action Forum’s Director of Immigration and Trade Policy Jacqueline Varas, and the Managing Director of USA Group International, Ambassador George Bruno. The panel was moderated by Concord’s Executive Director Robert L. Bixby.
Varas identified a strong connection between immigration policy and economic policy. “The United States faces a growth problem,” Varas said. “Immigrants, just by living here, increase economic activity. They work, they increase demand for food, housing and transportation. They also tend to have higher labor force participation rates than people born in the United States.”
She and her colleagues at the American Action Forum have put together a pro-economic growth immigration reform plan in a recent publication. The paper is part of a new Concord Coalition project on a fiscally responsible economic growth agenda.
Among other things, the plan revamps the visa system and adds a points-based system to the nation’s existing family-based legal immigration system. The proposed changes encourage immigration of individuals for industries in need.
Bruno added that immigrants are the cornerstone of our strength as a nation and our economy. He said, by-and-large, they are occupying jobs that most Americans do not want in which they pay taxes and help prop up the Social Security and Medicare systems. Bruno said that the majority of New Hampshire’s economic growth over the last 10 years has been due to migration and, without it, the state would have a shrinking population.
But this is not an isolated issue. Varas said the national birth rate of 1.8 children per couple is so low that, without immigration, the United States’ population would be shrinking.
Noorani said that there are communities throughout the country that are actively trying to adapt to the aging of our population and diminishing workforce by encouraging migration to their towns and cities. He used Storm Lake, Iowa as an example, a rural community that has decided to encourage migration to their town in order to achieve success. It is now one of the few rural towns in Iowa that is growing in terms of housing, jobs and health of its local economy.
Underpinning the discussion is the reality that immigration has always been part of the United States’ social fabric, but it has not been part of an economic growth strategy. A well-designed legal immigration policy has the potential to be a powerful force for economic growth.