As a Nevada small business owner, I have watched as our immigration system has shackled our economic competitiveness. How Congress acts in the coming weeks will determine whether we continue with a broken system or we devise a new way of doing things that gives American businesses and workers a crucial boost in a challenging economy.
Comprehensive immigration reform is not a partisan issue. Groups as diverse as the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the liberal AFL-CIO support it. A vote for immigration reform is a vote to reduce our federal budget deficit, create jobs, grow our economy, and improve worker productivity.
Immigrants are major drivers of economic growth and job creation in our country. In 2011, they accounted for only 12.9 percent of the population but started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses. Three out of four information technology and pharmaceutical drugs patents are invented by immigrants. Yet the United States reserves fewer permanent employment-based visas as a percent of its workforce than almost any other major economy. Most employment-based visas are temporary and opportunities to convert them to permanent residency are scarce.
Current law discourages workforce development, which retards worker productivity. High turnover rates of undocumented workers increase hiring costs and diminish employers’ incentives to invest in training workers. In the absence of clear and mandatory verification rules, businesses that rely on undocumented workers are exposed to significant uncertainty.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Immigration reform will boost economic output by attracting new workers. It will increase private saving and capital flows from other countries and stimulate domestic consumption.
Immigration reform is not just a moral or national security issue — it’s a matter of economic competitiveness. If economic growth is a priority for our Congressmen, supporting comprehensive immigration reform is a no-brainer.
Ron is the owner of Pioneer Overhead Door, and lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. This article originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Las Vegas Sun.