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Immigrants and the economy: why immigration reform is a smart idea

“It’s the economy, stupid,” is a phrase that has entered the American political lexicon. Coined by a strategist for Bill Clinton two decades ago, it still resonates strongly in a post-Recession economy in which both unemployment and fears of further job losses remain high.

In the context of immigration law, the phrase applies as well. Opponents of immigration reform like to claim that allowing too many employment visas for immigrants would take away American jobs.

Advocates of immigration reform from across the political spectrum argue the reverse about work authorization. They contend the U.S. risks falling behind economically without an influx of dynamic immigrants from aboard, many of them with high-tech and other advanced skills needed to drive the economy forward.

Considerable empirical data on the question supports the pro-immigration position. For example, the percentage of immigrants who own small businesses (20 percent) far exceeds the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. population (13 percent).

In terms of job creation, there is an undeniable multiplier effect. A study by a research group called the Fiscal Policy Institute found that in 2012 small businesses owned by immigrants were responsible for employing 5 million people.

In other words, the data suggests that innovative and entrepreneurial immigrants actually create jobs for Americans. They don’t take jobs; they create them.

Further support for this position comes from the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City. About half of the nation’s startup companies are started by immigrants. And those companies, the Kauffman research found, are responsible for almost all of the net increase in new jobs.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “More Immigration Means More Jobs for Americans,” John Dearie and Courtney Geduldig, Dec. 29, 2013

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