New Paper Says Legal Immigration Changes Could Power Economic Growth

Press Release
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Des Moines, Iowa -- Under the auspices of The Concord Coalition, the American Action Forum (AAF) today presented a new paper that proposes reforming legal immigration to the United States in ways that would promote greater economic growth.

The proposals would shift the United States away from prioritizing non-economic immigration and toward focusing legal immigration on the demands of a productive labor force.

The paper, “Building a Pro-Growth Legal Immigration System,” was presented at a public program at Drake University in Des Moines that featured a discussion of the proposals by AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin and AAF Director of Immigration and Trade Policy Jacqueline Varas.

Holtz-Eakin previously served as director of the Congressional Budget Office and chief economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in 2001 and 2002. The AAF paper is part of a Concord Coalition project on economic growth and fiscal responsibility.

“Immigration has always been part of the United States’ social fabric, but it has not been part of an economic growth strategy,” Holtz-Eakin and Varas said. “A well-designed legal immigration policy can advance entrepreneurship, augment productivity gains, fill skills gaps, and combat demographically driven labor force declines.”

They added: “Especially at a time of record-low unemployment and shortfalls of qualified workers, a new approach to immigration has the potential to be a powerful force for economic growth.”

The American Action Forum said the immigration proposals would:

  • Give business access to the workers they need in the current environment of labor shortages and record-low unemployment rates.

  • Ensure a means for both higher- and lower-skilled individuals who want to contribute to the U.S. -- and are qualified to do so -- to come to the United States legally.

  • Continue to honor family relationships, but require qualified applicants to possess characteristics ensuring they will be productive members of the labor force.

The paper and additional information can be found here on the AAF website and here on Concord’s website.

Other scheduled speakers at the program were Jeff Fox, chairman and CEO of Harbour Group, and Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. The program was co-sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

“With a rapidly growing federal debt and an aging population, the United States faces difficult fiscal, economic and demographic challenges in the years ahead,” Bixby said. “There is no single solution. In addition to sweeping reforms in the federal budget, we must promote stronger economic growth than credible projections currently indicate. The Concord Coalition believes immigration reforms can play a critical role in achieving such growth.”