Tamar Jacoby, April 2014

MIGRATION
STRATEGY GROUP
ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
> > >
Framework Paper
THE EMPLOYER PERSPECTIVE:
THE ROLE OF THE PRIVATE
SECTOR IN THE U.S.
IMMIGRATION DEBATE
ABOUT THE MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP
The Migration Strategy Group on Global Competitiveness (MSG) was launched by the German Marshall Fund
of the United States (GMF) and the Robert Bosch Stiftung in 2013. The Migration Strategy Group brings together
key policy-stakeholders and decision-makers from the public and private sector, across different ministries and
political departments from migrant-sending and receiving countries on both sides of the Atlantic. The aim is to
develop a common understanding of designing and implementing coherent policies that unlock the full potential
of migration. It is based on the premise that demographic change, growing global competition for an increasingly
mobile workforce, and development of migrant-sending countries demand holistic and attractive migration and
integration policies that create triple win situations (for the receiving country, the sending country, and the mi-
grant). In 2013-2014, the activities of the Migration Strategy Group will focus on a case study for potential triple
win labor migration frameworks between Germany and Morocco.
Activities include regular interdisciplinary working group meetings for policymakers, issue experts, and private
sector representatives assessing current labor migration frameworks, and the strengths, weaknesses, and trans-
ferability of concrete triple win policy models and case studies; study tours for relevant stakeholders to gain
first-hand experience of migration and development issues in migrant sending countries; publication of policy
briefs by senior advisors to provide an analytical framework for policy experts and decision-makers; and a plena-
ry workshop to summarize findings and share insights more broadly and feed into other policy fora like the Global
Forum on Migration and Development.
In its first year, the Migration Strategy Group is chaired by Tobias Billström, minister for migration and asylum
policy in Sweden and current chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). Senior advisors are
Steffen Angenendt, senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, and Tamar
Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA. Associated Advisors are Manjula Luthria and Yann Pouget
at The World Bank, Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI) and Michael Clemens at the Center for Global
Development.
The project is coordinated by Astrid Ziebarth, director for migration & society, and Jessica Bither, program
coordinator, at GMF, and Ottilie Bälz, head of section society and culture, and Melanie Dense, program officer, at
the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
Summary 04
A New Voice in the Debate 05
The Immigration Debates of the Past 06
The U.S. Way of Labor Migration 07
Foreign Labor Recruitment: What Employers Want 08
Employers Make an Economic Case for Reform 09
Critics of the Economic Case 10
The 2013 Senate Bill 11
A Long-Neglected Issue: Less-Skilled Labor Migrants 12
A New Less-Skilled Visa Program 13
Will the New Program Work? 14
Winners and Losers 15
Conclusion 16
TABLE OF CONTENTS
03 / MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
Tamar Jacoby is president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA. The opinions expressed here are those of the
author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the German Marshall Fund nor the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 04
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
When Congress last considered immigration reform, in 2006 and 2007, few employers
were willing to play a public role in the debate. In 2013, in contrast, employers were
among the most visible and vocal proponents of change – writing op-ed pieces, holding
press conferences, attending public forums, and appearing in the media. Unlike in some
countries, U.S. employers don’t need government help attracting or recruiting foreign
workers, either high-skilled or low-skilled. What they need are streamlined, easy-to-use
worker visa programs ample enough to accommodate the robust market-driven flows
that currently deliver foreign labor for U.S. businesses, whether in IT and finance or
hospitality, food processing, and construction, among other sectors. As a result of the
new business advocacy, public opinion is shifting, as more Americans come to under-
stand the economic benefits of immigration, high-skilled and low-skilled. Legislation
passed in the U.S. Senate in June 2013 reflects this new understanding, with some ca-
veats. Among other far-reaching changes, the bill would dramatically increase employ-
ment-based migration, adding more visas, temporary and permanent, for high-skilled
employees and creating a new, break-the-mold visa program for less-skilled workers.
When this paper went to press in early 2014, it was unclear if the House of Represen-
tatives would act to approve legislation that could be reconciled with the Senate bill to
produce new law. There are limits to business power, particularly in the current climate
in Washington — employers alone are not in a position to force legislative change. Still,
after what happened in 2013, the debate will never be same: now that employers have
found their voice, business interests are unlikely to go silent.
This paper will begin by examining the new role business played in 2013, with a com-
parison to business advocacy in previous years. Following sections will explore what U.S.
employers want from immigration reform: how they recruit foreign workers and what
assistance they seek from government. The paper will outline the changes to labor mi-
gration proposed by the 2013 Senate immigration bill and conclude with a discussion of
possible winners and losers if a bill along these lines were to become law.
05 / MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
THE EMPLOYER PERSPECTIVE: THE ROLE OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR
IN THE U.S. IMMIGRATION DEBATE
Immigration reform, one of the nation’s leading domestic
policy issues, has been on the table in Washington since
2001. To many, the debate has come to seem all too
familiar — what some dismissively call “the same old,
same old.” In fact, the discussion in 2013 was dramat-
ically different than in years past. Among the reasons:
employers and employer representatives participated in
a way they have not participated before — publicly and
persuasively making a new, well-documented case about
the economic benefits of immigration.
1
Bill Gates, “How to keep America compettve,” The Washington Post, February 25, 2007, htp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
content/artcle/2007/02/23/AR2007022301697.html.
2
Barbara De Lollis, “Marriot CEO blasts Congress over immigrant bill,” USA Today, April 11, 2006, htp://usatoday30.usatoday.com/
money/biztravel/2006-04-11-marriot-immigraton_x.htm.
3
Joshua Brustein, “Mark Zuckerberg fexes Silicon Valley’s politcal muscles on immigraton,” Bloomberg Businessweek, October 23,
2013, htp://www.businessweek.com/artcles/2013-10-23/mark-zuckerberg-fexes-silicon-valleys-politcal-muscles-on-immigraton.
“Caterpillar CEO Oberhelman pushes for immigraton reform,” Chicago Business, August 9, 2013, htp://www.chicagobusiness.com/
artcle/20130809/NEWS05/130809770/caterpillar-ceo-oberhelman-pushes-for-immigraton-reform#.
4
Executves from Motorola, Cargill, Procter & Gamble, and AT&T signed a leter to Reps. John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, September
10, 2013, htp://www.hrpolicy.org/downloads/2013/CHRO_Immigraton_Reform_Leter.pdf. “Union County pizzeria owners to
Congressman Lance: Time to deliver on immigraton reform,” Cranford Chronicle, August 20, 2013, htp://www.nj.com/cranford/index.
ssf/2013/08/union_county_pizzeria_owners_t.html.
A NEW VOICE IN THE DEBATE
In the United States as around the world, immigration is
a contentious, emotional issue — so much so that Con-
gress rarely tackles it more than once a generation. In the
past 100 years, there have been only four full-scale over-
hauls of the nation’s immigration law: 1924, 1952, 1965,
and 1986, all of them many years in the making. The
current debate goes back to 2001, when a record num-
ber of unauthorized immigrants died trying to cross the
desert between the United States and Mexico. President
George W. Bush put the issue on the table in Washington,
calling for reform that combined tougher enforcement
with more streamlined labor migration and some form of
regularization for unauthorized immigrants. Lawmakers
have been struggling ever since to come together around
legislation along these lines. In 2006, the Senate passed
a sweeping reform measure, but the House of Represent-
atives declined to take it up. In 2007, Senate reformers
tried again with a different bill but did not succeed in
passing it. In June 2013, a Democratically controlled
Senate went at it again and approved yet another om-
nibus overhaul, which is now awaiting action by the
Republican House.
The last time the nation considered reform, in 2006
and 2007, few employers who rely on immigrant work-
ers were willing to play a public role in the debate. Bill
Gates wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post.
1

Bill Marriott Jr., CEO of the global hotel chain, spoke out
in favor of reform at a gathering of hotel executives.
2
The
U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade associations
worked the issue quietly, behind the scenes. But apart
from Gates and Marriott, virtually no known employers
spoke out publicly in favor of immigration or an immi-
gration overhaul. Public support by business was so rare
that when one brave soul — a small landscaping con-
tractor from California — finally raised his head above
the trench line, appearing on television in Washington in
an ad sponsored by a trade group, the Wall Street Journal
published a front-page story about him.
In 2013, in contrast, employers were among the most
visible and vocal proponents of change. Some of the
nation’s best known business leaders raised their voices
in support of reform, from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg
to old economy CEOs like Doug Oberhelman of Caterpil-
lar.
3
Far from avoiding the debate, many companies were
eager to link their brands to the cause: iconic national
companies like Motorola, Cargill, Procter & Gamble, and
AT&T, but also local mom-and-pop businesses like —
one example among many — a group of pizzeria own-
ers from New Jersey who held a press conference in the
summer of 2013 urging their congressman to make im-
migration a priority.
4

MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 06
THE IMMIGRATION DEBATES OF THE PAST
5
“Bibles, Badges, and Business leaders win the August recess,” Bibles, Badges, and Business, September 5, 2013, htp://bbbimmigraton.
org/press/press_post/bibles-badges-and-business-leaders-win-the-august-recess.
6
“Recess op-ed campaign,” ImmigratonWorks USA, htp://immigratonworksusa.org/index.php?p=597.
7
Ashley Parker, “Business-conservatve alliance presses for immigraton acton,” The New York Times, October 29, 2013, htp://www.
nytmes.com/2013/10/30/us/politcs/business-conservatve-coaliton-presses-for-immigraton-overhaul-do-it-now.html?_r=0.
8
Laura Meckler, “Some GOP donors step up immigraton push,” Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2013, htp://online.wsj.com/news/
artcles/SB10001424052702303672404579149902512108702.
9
Gallup, “Immigraton polling,” htp://www.gallup.com/poll/1660/immigraton.aspx.
10
Informaton about the 2007 Senate immigraton bill in this paragraph and the pages that follow comes from American Immigraton
Lawyers Associaton, “Summary of key business immigraton provisions in S.1639,” June 21, 2007, htp://www.aila.org/content/default.
aspx?bc=6755|37844|11536|26724|22704; and “Summary of key new worker provisions in S.1639,” June 21, 2007, htp://www.aila.
org/content/default.aspx?bc=6755|37844|11536|26724|22705.
One Washington-based advocacy group — the Bibles,
Badges, and Business coalition — worked with business
owners and other advocates to organize more than 40
town hall meetings across the country in August.
5
Anoth-
er group of small business owners published op-ed piec-
es reaching 1.9 million newspaper readers.
6
In October,
several hundred business owners descended on Wash-
ington for a much publicized lobbying blitz organized
by the Chamber of Commerce and Zuckerberg’s political
organization, FWD.us — a rare public display by a sec-
tor that prefers to flex its muscle out of the sight of the
media.
7
Rarer still, in the wake of that fly-in, several in-
fluential business donors threatened to cut their political
giving to lawmakers who fail to support an immigration
overhaul.
8

Taken together, it was a sea change — a quiet revolution.
Business engagement was not the only thing that distin-
guished 2013 from previous years. Latino voters were a
much more potent force this time around. The nation’s
fastest growing voting bloc, credited with delivering the
White House for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, they
and their future electoral power hung over the debate,
never far from anyone’s mind, Democrat or Republi-
can. Public anxiety about immigration was noticeably
reduced from years past,
9
perhaps because the flow of
illegal entrants was much reduced in the wake of the
economic downturn and five years of shrinking employ-
ment opportunities. Also important, many voters’ views
had been softened by the political mobilization of young
Latino immigrants brought to the country illegally as
children and now claiming rights. Known as the Dream-
ers, fresh-faced, idealistic, and eloquent, they mounted
an impressive advocacy campaign that transformed the
image of unauthorized immigrants and eased public re-
sistance to reform that would regularize their status.
Still, even in the context of these other changes, the busi-
ness revolution stood out because of its impact on the
substance of the debate.
Veterans of the U.S. immigration debate joke cynically
that their issue is as intractable as the Israeli-Palestini-
an conflict: the solution is well known, the only obstacle
is convincing decision-makers. On immigration as in the
Middle East, the three core elements of a proposed grand
bargain has changed little over the years: some form of
legalization for unauthorized immigrants in exchange
for tougher law enforcement on the border and in the
workplace, plus more visas for foreign workers, both
high-skilled and low-skilled. Still, despite this continuity,
the focus of the debate has shifted over time. And the
element most prized by business —worker visas — has
always been tenuous.
In 2006, voters and elected officials alike were preoccu-
pied with illegal immigration. “What part of illegal don’t
you understand?” was the rallying cry of an emotional-
ly intense and influential opposition that succeeded in
blocking reform by tagging it as “amnesty” for unau-
thorized immigrants.
In 2007, the emphasis shifted from the present to the
future. Amnesty was still a flashpoint but less incendi-
ary than in the past, as congressional debate focused on
what was called “future flow”: visas for foreigners com-
ing to the United States in years ahead. The core pro-
visions of the bill that moved through the Senate were
fewer visas based on family ties, a strong bias in favor
of skilled workers, and a complex scheme of carrots and
sticks to make sure temporary workers would return
home when their visas expired.
10

11
Stuart Anderson, “The Point System’s Impact on Foreign Nurses and Other Potental Immigrants,” Natonal Foundaton for American
Policy, June 2007, htp://www.nfap.com/pdf/0706pointsystem.pdf.
12
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Yearbook of Immigraton Statstcs: 2012,” March 2013, htps://www.dhs.gov/
yearbook-immigraton-statstcs.
13
Pia Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny, Beside the Golden Door, American Enterprise Insttute for Public Policy Research, 2010.
14
USDA Economic Research Service, “Farm Labor.” February 14, 2013, htp://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-labor/
background.aspx#.UoKcn-JDAgN.
15
“Immigrants found one in four engineering and technology startups,” Duke University Prat School of Engineering, January 1, 2007,
htp://www.prat.duke.edu/news/immigrants-found-one-four-engineering-and-technology-startups.
16
Kristen McCabe, “Foreign-Born Health Care Workers in the United States,” Migraton Informaton Source, June 2012, htp://
www.migratoninformaton.org/usfocus/display.cfm?ID=898. Ezra Klein, “Worried about the economy? Then pass immigraton
reform,” The Washington Post, January 31, 2013, htp://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/31/worried-about-
the-economy-then-pass-immigraton-reform/.
07 / MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
In some ways, the 2007 debate favored businesses that
rely on immigrant skill and manpower — the proposed
reform added visas for workers at the expense of family
members. But many employers were still unhappy.
Proposed worker visa quotas were far below what com-
panies thought necessary to meet U.S. labor needs.
Proposed regulations were complex and, in employers’
view, threatened to distort the labor market. Businesses
that depend on low-skilled immigrants —in agriculture,
hospitality, food processing, and construction, among
other industries — felt particularly short-changed. A
“merit-based” point system all but guaranteed that
most incoming workers would be highly skilled, and vi-
sas for less-skilled temporary workers required them to
return to their home countries every third year. This was
a stratagem aimed at immigrants — meant to prevent
them from settling permanently in the United States. But
it threatened to undermine business interests, making it
all but impossible to retain or promote workers.
Ironically, employers of highly skilled immigrants were
also displeased by the bill and strongly opposed to the
merit-based point system. The lawmakers who spon-
sored the measure could not have been more surprised.
They had meant to favor qualified workers. But employ-
ers felt the legislation would tie their hands by limiting
the pool of incoming talent to workers chosen by the
government — in employers’ view, a poor substitute for
their own recruitment efforts.
What, after all, could the government know of a com-
pany’s needs, its culture, or its plans for growth? Good
English skills and an advanced degree — two qualities
rewarded by the point system — sounded great on pa-
per. But would it be a degree that qualified the worker
for the opening at hand? Employers were skeptical. And
what about the job applicant’s prior experience, technical
expertise, work habits, and intangible personal qualities
like motivation or loyalty? The proposed point system
could not possibly assess these things, which are argu-
ably the most important qualifications for employers.
11
There were many reasons for Congress’ failure to enact
immigration reform in 2007, but business ambivalence
did not help. Nonplussed by the point system, anxious
about new regulations, and annoyed at lawmakers’
seeming indifference to their labor needs and hiring hab-
its, many employers sat on their hands and watched the
legislation go up in flames in the Senate.
THE U.S. WAY OF LABOR MIGRATION
Critics of the U.S. immigration system, particularly econo-
mists, often complain that admissions are biased in favor
of family ties. Roughly two-thirds of the 1 million to 1.2
million legal immigrants admitted annually over the last
decade were family members of previous immigrants,
now citizens or legal permanent residents entitled to
sponsor their relatives.
12
Immigrant workers account
for a smaller share of visas in the United States than in
any other developed country: just 7 percent of the an-
nual total, compared to roughly 25 percent in Canada,
40 percent in Australia, and 60 percent in the U.K. and
Germany.
13
But these numbers do not tell the whole story. On the
contrary, they mask a robust, vibrant flow of labor mi-
gration to the United States: highly skilled and low-
skilled workers from around the globe who sustain a
range of industries and create jobs for Americans. Ac-
cording to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 71 percent
of U.S. crop workers are foreign-born.
14
A full 25 percent
of the IT startups launched nationwide from 1995 to
2005 were founded by immigrants.
15
One-quarter of the
doctors practicing in the United States are born abroad,
so are 25 percent of the nurses and 50 percent of science
and technology Ph.Ds.
16

Some of these workers enter the United States on fam-
ily visas. Others arrive first as students and stay on to
work, shifting eventually to employment-based visas,
temporary and permanent. Still others enter illegally or
overstay their visas. Together, they fill economic niches
left empty by a native-born labor force that is much more
educated than in decades past, but still not educated
enough to sustain a global knowledge economy.
Immigrants are attracted to the United States to fill jobs
for which U.S. workers are over or underqualified, and
it is no accident that newcomers are disproportionate-
ly farm workers, dishwashers, and janitors — but also
computer programmers and university researchers. Be-
cause of these skill differences, by and large, immigrants
complement rather than compete with U.S. workers, and
the combination of domestic and foreign labor works to
enhance U.S. productivity. (Think of a IT entrepreneur
who starts a business that hires U.S. technicians, or a do-
mestic worker who makes it possible for a professional
woman to work outside the home.) Newcomers’ labor
force participation far exceeds that of Americans, and for
much of the last few decades, their unemployment rates
have been lower.
17
How is it possible to explain this gap between govern-
ment policy and the reality of the marketplace? For most
employers, it is evidence of the invisible hand at work.
Would-be labor migrants, whether Indian IT graduates or
Mexican campesinos, learn about job openings a conti-
nent away, sometimes on the web or from a labor re-
cruiter, sometimes from a cousin who has preceded them
to the United States and calls with information about
where jobs are in short supply and where they are plen-
tiful. Workers around the globe act on this knowledge;
transportation is relatively cheap and easy. And as a
consequence, the ebb and flow of workers, particularly
unauthorized workers, responds in real time to the ebb
and flow of U.S. labor needs.
17
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statstcs, “Labor force characteristcs of foreign-born workers,” May 22, 2013, htp://www.bls.gov/news.release/
forbrn.nr0.htm.
MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 08 MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 08 MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 08
FOREIGN LABOR RECRUITMENT: WHAT EMPLOYERS WANT
Few employers look to government — the U.S. govern-
ment or a foreign one — to help with labor recruitment.
They don’t need to. The United States remains the desti-
nation of choice for more than enough foreign job-seek-
ers, high and low-skilled. Some businesses rely on em-
ployee networks to find workers: friends and relatives
of current workers who make their way to the United
States, legally or illegally, without help from employers.
Others hire heavily from U.S. college and university pro-
grams, particularly in science, technology, engineering,
and math, that attract more foreign than native-born
students. Many companies look to foreign recruiters,
whether a Mexican agent who trolls in rural villages or an
international staffing company that selects among nurs-
ing graduates in the Philippines. Still other firms, par-
ticularly those that hire highly skilled workers, maintain
extensive operations abroad. Workers recruited in, say,
Israel or India start their careers at the company’s Israel
or India outpost. Those who make the grade are eventu-
ally relocated to the United States, initially on temporary
visas. The workers’ hope: that somewhere along the way,
in their first U.S. job or later, they will encounter an U.S.
employer who will sponsor them for a permanent visa.
It is a loosely structured, often unregulated, market-
based system, legal and illegal. And except for the ille-
gality, by and large it works to meet U.S. labor needs. It
was no accident that when Hurricane Katrina devastated
New Orleans in 2005, hundreds of thousands of immi-
grants arrived within days to assist with the cleanup.
18

It was also no accident that the number of Mexicans en-
tering the United States without papers dropped below
170,000 in 2011, less than one-quarter the number that
had entered illegally in 2007, before the downturn.
19
Few
employers were surprised to see the trend turn up again
recently, as the construction industry, among others, be-
gan to fire on all cylinders and builders began to experi-
ence labor shortages.
Ideally, in employers’ eyes, government policy would en-
courage and abet this thriving market exchange.
What employers want most from government:

Quotas aligned as closely as possible with the
flow of workers generated by the market.
It is
understood and accepted that companies should
have to try to hire Americans first. But when there
are not enough willing and able Americans, or em-
ployers cannot fill specialized slots, they want to
be able to hire foreign workers quickly, easily and
legally.

A system that allows employers to make their
own choices.
Business strongly supports the prin-
ciple of employer recruitment. Business owners
want to continue selecting and hiring workers
themselves, individual by individual. And they resist
proposals for point systems or expert commissions
to determine labor shortages: in most employers’
eyes, no expert can predict labor needs better than
the marketplace.
20


Streamlined visa programs.
Current policy
provides more than a dozen different kinds of
employment-based visas: some short-term, some
long-term, for different skill levels and employment
circumstances. In itself, this alphabet soup is not a
problem for employers — they like the flexibility.
But some visa programs are more popular than
others: some more heavily regulated than others
and some too small to meet workforce needs. It is
expected that the government will set parameters
to protect U.S. workers, regulating foreign workers’
wages and working conditions. But naturally, em-
ployers want any government interference to be as
light as possible.
Meanwhile, changing labor needs — new demand in re-
cent decades at the top and bottom of the skills ladder
— have created a pair of structural problems that se-
verely compromise the system and, if left unremedied,
could bring it down.
The first systemic problem is a bottleneck for highly
skilled workers seeking to make the transition from tem-
porary to permanent visas. Most skilled workers arrive
initially on temporary visas. If they succeed in the United
States, they generally want to stay. But the number of
temporary visas issued annually far exceeds the number
of permanent visas available, producing a huge backlog
of valued employees waiting years in limbo, wondering if
they will get permission to settle permanently. According
to one estimate, there are more than 1 million workers
languishing in this queue, unable to move up on the job,
plan their futures, or fulfill their potential in the compa-
nies they work for.
21
The second systemic problem: there is no workable visa
program, temporary or permanent, for less-skilled for-
eigners who want to work year-round in non-farm jobs.
They can enter the United States legally if they are spon-
sored by family members, but many have no relatives in
the United States, and even those who do often wait a
decade or more for a visa. Those without family in the
United States have no choice: their only option is to pay
a smuggler to help them cross the border unlawfully. The
result is that nearly 12 million low-skilled workers and
their families now live in the United States illegally —
not because they prefer to live on the wrong side of the
law or that it confers any advantages, but because there
is no program that would allow them to enter and work
legally.
22
18
Katharine Donato and Shirin Hakimzadeh, “The Changing Face of the Gulf Coast: Immigraton to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama,”
Migraton Informaton Source, January 2006, htp://www.migratoninformaton.org/Feature/display.cfm?ID=368.
19
Mexican Migraton Monitor, “Overview: Mexican Migraton Beyond the Downturn and Deportatons,” University of Southern
California Tomás Rivera Policy Insttute and El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, October 2012, htp://www.migratonmonitor.com/.
20
Essental Worker Immigraton Coaliton, “Proposed Legislatve Outline: The Workforce America Needs for Recovery and Beyond,”
htp://immigratonworksusa.org/uploaded/EWIC_provisional_visa_outline.pdf.
21
Stuart Anderson, “Waitng and More Waitng: America’s Family and Employment-Based Immigraton System,” Natonal Foundaton for
American Policy, October 2011, htp://www.nfap.com/pdf/WAITING_NFAP_Policy_Brief_October_2011.pdf.
22
Testmony before the Senate Judiciary Commitee on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigraton Modernizaton Act,
Tamar Jacoby, April 22, 2013, htp://immigratonworksusa.org/uploaded/Statement_by_Tamar_Jacoby_ImmigratonWorks_USA.pdf.
09 / MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
23
Partnership for New American Economy, “Research and Reports,” htp://www.renewoureconomy.org/research/. “Growth and
Immigraton: A handbook of vital immigraton and economic growth statstcs,” George W. Bush Insttute, 2012, htp://www.
fourpercentgrowth.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Growth-and-Immigraton-Handbook.pdf. Madeline Zavodny, “Immigraton and
American Jobs,” American Enterprise Insttute for Public Policy Research and the Partnership for a New American Economy, December
2011, htp://www.renewoureconomy.org/sites/all/themes/pnae/img/NAE_Im-AmerJobs.pdf.
24
ImmigratonWorks USA, “Business grassroots actvity,” htp://www.immigratonworksusa.org/index.php?p=558.
25
Ibid.
26
Pew Research Center, “Immigraton: Key data points from Pew Research,” htp://www.pewresearch.org/key-data-points/
immigraton-tp-sheet-on-u-s-public-opinion/.
27
Ronald Brownstein, “More in U.S. warm to new meltng pot,” Natonal Journal, November 14, 2013, htp://www.natonaljournal.com/
next-america/educaton/more-in-u-s-warm-to-the-new-meltng-pot-20131114.
28
German Marshall Fund, “Transatlantc trends: Key fndings 2013,” September 2013, htp://trends.gmfus.org/fles/2013/09/TTrends-
2013-Key-Findings-Report.pdf.
Both of these issues, and others of concern to employers,
were at the center of the 2013 immigration debate.
Employers and employer groups were not just more vis-
ible this time; even before the issue reached Congress,
they injected a new set of arguments into the debate.
The Partnership for a New American Economy, found-
ed in 2010 by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
and News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch, has com-
missioned more than a dozen reports making the eco-
nomic case for immigration reform. Among the goals for
each study: to answer a research question with a single
memorable statistic — that 100 highly skilled temporary
workers generate 183 related jobs for Americans; that
100 low-skilled seasonal temporary workers generate
464 jobs for Americans; and that more than 40 percent
of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants
and their children.
23
As anticipated, these numbers and
others have been picked up by the media and are now
staples of the national conversation.
From August through October 2013, according to one
count, some 40 employers signed or co-signed op-ed ar-
ticles recycling the Partnership’s numbers or making the
case from their own experience: that they depend on im-
migrant workers, high-skilled or low-skilled, to keep their
businesses running and contributing to the economy.
24
Other business owners, large and small, lent their names
to advertisements in newspapers. Still others signed
public letters to Congress, appeared at forums, made
speeches, or gave interviews in the media
25
.
Over time, this barrage is working to change public per-
ceptions. Public opinion polling is notoriously fickle. So
much depends on how the pollster asks the question, and
results can fluctuate dramatically from day to day. Still,
surveys show a marked evolution of opinion on labor mi-
gration. The Pew Research Center poses the same choice
every year: do you believe immigrants “strengthen the
country because of their hard work and talents” or that
they “are a burden because they take jobs and health
care”? Between 2006 and 2013, those who feel immi-
grants strengthen the United States rose from 41 per-
cent to 49 percent, while those who see immigrants as
a burden fell from 52 percent to 41 percent.
26
In anoth-
er 2013 sounding, by National Journal and the College
Board, 63 percent said immigrants “mostly take jobs
Americans don’t want,” while only 19 percent said they
“mostly take jobs away from Americans.”
27
The German
Marshall Fund’s 2013 Transatlantic Trends found 69 per-
cent of U.S. respondents agreeing that immigrants “help
fill jobs where there are shortages of workers.”
28
Feelings about skilled immigrants have changed even
more dramatically. In 2007, Gallup asked if the United
States should give higher priority to highly skilled work-
ers or immigrants with family members in the United
States. Most respondents preferred family, with only 38
percent choosing the highly skilled. By 2013, 71 percent
of respondents wanted more visas for immigrants with
advanced skills in science and technology, and 78 per-
cent felt engineers and scientists with graduate degrees
from U.S. universities should be allowed to remain and
work in the United States.
29
MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 10
EMPLOYERS MAKE AN ECONOMIC CASE FOR REFORM
The economic argument for more robust labor migration
has not gone uncontested in Congress or the media. In
2013, unlike in the past, the nation’s leading labor union
federation, the AFL-CIO, was largely supportive of immi-
gration reform. But union leaders remained highly skep-
tical of future labor migration: they continued to argue
that employers overestimate their need for immigrant
labor, that many businesses mistreat foreign workers
and that U.S. workers suffer as a result — that exploita-
tion of foreign workers undermines labor conditions for
Americans.
At the other end of the political spectrum, immigration
restrictionists make a similar case, disputing business
claims about the economic benefits of immigration. And
in Congress, an unlikely alliance of pro-labor Democrats
and anti-immigrant Republicans has come together to
push back against the business argument for a more
ample supply of foreign workers, arguing that immi-
grants take jobs from Americans and that employers will
adjust to immigration restrictions with increased auto-
mation and other measures. This alliance too made it’s
case forcefully in 2013, but with somewhat less influence
than in the past.
29
Gallup polls, “Most Americans favor giving illegal immigrants a chance,” April 25, 2007, htp://www.gallup.com/poll/27307/most-
americans-favor-giving-illegal-immigrants-chance.aspx; “Americans widely support immigraton reform proposals,” February 5,
2013, htp://www.gallup.com/poll/160307/americans-widely-support-immigraton-reform-proposals.aspx; and “Immigraton reform
proposals garner broad support in U.S.,” June 19, 2013, htp://www.gallup.com/poll/163169/immigraton-reform-proposals-garner-
broad-support.aspx.
30
Informaton about the 2013 Senate bill in this paragraph and the pages that follow comes from the text of S.744, “Border Security,
Economic Opportunity, and Immigraton Modernizaton Act,” htp://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?bc=11536|45985. For a useful
summary of S.744, see the American Immigraton Lawyers Associaton and the American Immigraton Council, “Secton-by-Secton
Summary of S.744,” July 22, 2013, htp://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?bc=6755|37861|25667|44901.
11 / MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
CRITICS OF THE ECONOMIC CASE
THE 2013 SENATE BILL
The reform legislation passed in the Senate in June 2013
is a sweeping package of provisions that, if enacted,
would touch virtually every facet of the U.S. immigration
system, transforming much of it beyond recognition.
30

Among the main provisions:
› Enhanced border security — double the number of
agents and hundreds of miles of fencing and other
barriers
› Mandatory employment verification — all U.S.
employers must verify new hires using an online
federal database
› Regularization for millions of immigrants living and
working in the United States illegally
› Enforcement triggers — the regularization of un-
authorized immigrants is conditioned on effective
implementation of new enforcement
› More visas for highly skilled workers, temporary and
permanent
› A new temporary visa program for less-skilled non-
farm workers
› Expedited processing for millions of applicants wai-
ting abroad in backlogged visa queues
› A new balance between permanent visas allocated
on the basis of family ties and those based on U.S.
employment needs
› A new, third category of permanent visas deter-
mined by a merit-based point system
Changes to labor migration are just one piece of the puz-
zle — but if the bill, or legislation like it, becomes law, a
generation from now, they are likely to prove among the
most significant.
Business’ biggest win, by far, was on permanent visas, or
green cards. One of the principal aims of the bipartisan
group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight,” that
crafted the bill was to recalibrate the balance between
family and employment-based visas. It is not clear they
succeeded to the extent they intended: much would de-
pend on how aspiring immigrants respond to the law in
years to come — who and how many apply for which
visa categories. But there is no question that if the bill
became law, labor migration would increase dramatical-
ly. According to one estimate by the respected Migration
Policy Institute, the share of permanent visas allotted
to employment-based migrants and their families could
grow from just 14 percent to as much as 40 percent.
31

A first large infusion of employment-based visas — hun-
dreds of thousands if not millions — would occur in the
first four years after the law was enacted to accommo-
date backlogs of aspiring migrants who applied to enter
the United States in decades past and are now waiting
their turn in line. Going forward, the annual quota of em-
ployment-based green cards would remain fixed at its
current level, 140,000. But several large categories of
permanent residents would be uncapped and exempted
from that total. Meanwhile, a new, third track — sepa-
rate from and on top of existing employment and fam-
ily-based quotas — would admit additional migrants
through a “merit-based” system that awarded points
for, among other attributes, prior U.S. employment and
work experience.
Among the uncapped categories that would be ex-
empted from any total: spouses and minor children of
employment-based green card holders; migrants of
“extraordinary ability,” including professors, research-
ers, and multinational executives; science, technology,
engineering and math workers with a job offer and a
recent advanced degree from a U.S. university; and mi-
grants with Ph.Ds in any subject from any university in
the world. Other important changes would shift how
employment-based visas are allocated among workers
— among migrants from different countries and with
different skill levels. The bottom line according to one
estimate: by 2018, the combined total of employment
and merit-based green cards could come in as high as
700,000 a year, up from 140,000 — an astonishing in-
crease by any standard.
32
The business push for more temporary visas, high-skilled
and low-skilled, was also successful. In both cases, the
gains came with setbacks, either tougher enforcement or
inadequate visa quotas. Still, in both cases, the net effect
of reform would favor employers who rely on immigrant
workers.
The H-1B visa program for highly skilled temporary
workers — defined as foreigners seeking jobs that re-
quire a bachelor’s degree or higher — is one of the most
popular existing immigration categories. The application
process is quicker and easier than for permanent visas.
Employees and employers alike appreciate this flexibility.
The concept of a short-term work stint — in effect, a trial
period — that can lead to a permanent visa has proved
workable and effective. Even public opinion is largely fa-
vorable: voters are more likely to see a need for skilled
workers than for unskilled, and many prefer admitting
workers on short-term visas.
Even so, the H-1B visa ran into trouble in the Senate in
2013, attacked by a determined handful of lawmakers,
Democrat and Republican, convinced that employers are
abusing the program. The measure as passed significant-
ly increases the annual H-1B quota: from 85,000 visas
a year to as many as 205,000. Another change impor-
tant to immigrants and employers eager to attract them
would allow the spouses of visa holders to work while in
the United States. But that is the end of the good news
for H-1B users.
31
Madeleine Sumpton and Claire Bergeron, “Remaking the U.S. green card system,” Migraton Policy Insttute, June 2013,
  htp://www.migratonpolicy.org/pubs/CIRbrief-LegalFlows.pdf.
32
Ibid.
MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 12
Employers of less-skilled immigrants also have reason to
be pleased by the Senate bill.
Of all the economic arguments in favor of immigration
reform, few are more important in the U.S. context than
the case for a new low-skilled temporary worker pro-
gram. Like most developed counties, the United States
needs less-skilled immigrants as badly as it needs the
highly skilled. The native-born workforce is aging. Amer-
icans are having smaller families. In the middle of the
last century, 64 percent of U.S. workers were high school
dropouts willing to do less-skilled, physically taxing
work. Today, that figure is less than 10 percent, but even
as technology transforms the economy, many employers
still rely on less-skilled workers to keep their business-
es running and sustain jobs for better-educated Ameri-
cans.
33
The bottom line for policy: the United States needs
robust worker visa programs at both ends of the skills
ladder, for kitchen workers as well as Ph.D scientists. The
problem: in the past, lawmakers shrugged off the need
for a low-skilled program, with dire consequences for the
economy and the rule of law.
Employers who rely on less-skilled workers lobbied hard
for a visa program in the 1980s, when Congress was
shaping the immigration regime in force today, only to
be told that legislators did not believe there was a bona
fide need. Instead, employers were advised to “wean”
themselves of their dependence — as if foreign work-
ers were some kind of unhealthy habit, rather than a vi-
tal economic input.
34
Three decades later, employers in
construction, cleaning, catering, and other sectors are
as dependent as ever on foreign laborers, and the na-
tion is grappling with a vast underground population of
unauthorized immigrants — 12 million in total, workers
and dependents, many of whom would have come to the
country legally rather than illegally if Congress had creat-
ed a visa program in the 1980s.
Even in the wake of this failure, many Americans ignore
or dismiss the nation’s need for less-skilled foreign work-
ers. Most voters and many elected officials think the an-
swer to unauthorized migration is more assertive law en-
forcement: enhanced border security, stricter workplace
controls, and tougher employer sanctions. They aren’t
wrong. These are necessary tools in the fight against il-
legal immigration. But they won’t work alone. Without
a worker visa program that creates legal channels for
needed foreign workers to enter the country lawfully,
there can be no hope of controlling the illegal influx. Still,
as recently as 2006 and 2007, employers asserting this
case made little headway, as pro-union Democrats and
anti-immigrant Republicans came together in the Senate
to undermine proposed low-skilled worker visa programs.
13 / MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
33
U.S. Census 1950 to 2000. American Community Survey 2010.
34
Tamar Jacoby, “Not Another Generaton,” America’s Quarterly 2, no. 3 (2008): 67-73, htp://immigratonworksusa.org/uploaded/
Jacoby_Tamar_Americas_Quarterly_Summer_08_Artcle-2.pdf.
Other provisions of the bill would add requirements to
the application process, assess new fees on employers,
substantially raise the wages employers are required to
pay visa holders, mandate additional government audits,
and significantly toughen penalties on sponsoring com-
panies. The new obligations would touch all employers
in the program but fall especially heavily on companies
said to be “H-1B dependent” — those for whom H-1B
workers make up more than 15 percent of their work-
force. Taken together, the new strictures and penalties
could put these “heavy users,” many of them Indian IT
outsourcing companies, out of business. Certainly, the
law will force them to change their business model to
rely less on temporary labor migrants.
A LONG-NEGLECTED ISSUE: LESS-SKILLED LABOR MIGRANTS
Fast forward to 2013. Of all the arguments put forward
by business advocates, this is still among the most criti-
cal and hardest to make. But now, the business case is fi-
nally getting through, if not with the public, at least with
reform-minded lawmakers. As “Gang of Eight” Republi-
can Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida put it early in the year,
“Guest workers [are] critical to preventing future influx-
es of illegal immigrants.”
35
And when the issue came up
in the Senate in the spring of 2013, even labor unions
had to agree, albeit grudgingly and against some labor
leaders’ better judgment, lest they be accused by Dem-
ocratic lawmakers of blocking the reform provision most
important to needed Republican allies like Sen. Rubio.
35
Bret Logiurato, “Marco Rubio blasts Obama’s leaked immigraton proposal as ‘dead on arrival,’” Business Insider, February 17, 2013,
htp://www.businessinsider.com/marco-rubio-obama-immigraton-reform-2013-2.
36
Randy Johnson, “W-Visas Explained,” Free Enterprise, April 5, 2013, htp://www.freeenterprise.com/immigraton/w-visas-explained.
S.744, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigraton Modernizaton Act: Subttle G — W Nonimmigrant Visas,” htp://
www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?bc=11536|45985.
MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 14
A NEW LESS-SKILLED VISA PROGRAM
The next step was designing a guest worker program
that would work for employers, migrants, and the Amer-
icans likely to be working next to them in a hotel kitchen
or on a construction site. Business and labor had been
negotiating for years, to no avail: they just could not
agree on the size of the program or how to structure it.
But as the push for reform gathered momentum in ear-
ly 2013, a group spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce and the AFL-CIO labor federation agreed on a
compromise that lawmakers then shaped into a bill. The
resulting W visa program is one of the most significant
and innovative provisions in the Senate package.
At the core of the program, its distinguishing hallmarks,
are a trio of features meant to solve three perennial
problems that have plagued guest worker programs in
the past.
36


Problem number one:
There’s nothing more per-
manent than a temporary foreign worker. Recogni-
zing that some labor migrants will want to work in
the United States for a while and then go home, but
others will do well in the new country and want to
settle permanently, the Senate bill makes provision
for both choices. The mechanism is an idea borro-
wed from the nation’s high-skilled visa system.
Instead of fighting the reality of how many workers
are likely to behave, the legislation would allow W
visa holders who want to stay in the United States
to avail themselves of a second new program, the
merit-based point system, open to temporary
workers seeking to make a transition to permanent
status. Points would be awarded for U.S. work his-
tory, education, family ties, and English-language
ability, among other criteria, and there would be
a track — potentially as many as 125,000 green
cards a year — reserved exclusively for less-skilled
workers. Other temporary worker legislation under
consideration in the House includes a provision that
would round out the Senate bill: a system of finan-
cial incentives to encourage migrants who do not
qualify for permanent visas to return to their home
countries at the end of their work stints.

Problem number two:
Inflexible visa quotas out of
sync with the business cycle and its shifting demand
for labor. Existing U.S. visa programs, whether for
high-skilled workers or seasonal resort workers,
never seem the right size to deliver needed labor.
When the economy is booming and demand is
high, quotas are invariably too small. Lawmakers
eventually recognize this, often after years of labor
shortages, and step in to raise quotas — but all too
often just in time for the downturn of the business
cycle. Then, by the time the economy turns up again,
those expanded quotas have often expired. The W
visa attempts to solve this problem with a mathe-
matical formula that ties the size of the program
to economic conditions and employer demand. The
goal is a quota that grows automatically in good
times when more foreign workers are needed and
shrinks automatically in down years when more
Americans are out of work.

Problem number three:
Guest worker programs as
indentured servitude — guest workers tied, without
recourse or bargaining power, to abusive or ex-
ploitative employers. The W visa program addresses
this problem by severing the tie that normally binds
a guest worker to a sponsoring company, putting
the employer in a position to exploit the foreign em-
ployee. Instead, the W visa program puts employers
and migrant workers on separate tracks. A company
seeking to hire an immigrant is required to test the
labor market and prove there are no willing and able
Americans available to take the job; if so, the firm
is granted a permit that allows it to hire any for-
eign worker in the program. Meanwhile, a foreigner
seeking work applies for a visa, which he or she can
use to take a job with any employer who has tested
the market and been approved to hire visa holders.
Workers are not tied to specific jobs or specific em-
ployers, and because they are free to quit, they are
in a better position to bargain with their bosses. The
benefit for employers: when a worker quits or is fi-
red, the company can replace him or her in real time,
without going back to the government and fighting
a new round of red tape.
15 / MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
37
Mexican Migraton Monitor.
38
Bureau of Labor Statstcs, “Industry employment and output projectons to 2020,” January 2012, htp://www.bls.gov/opub/
mlr/2012/01/art4full.pdf.
WILL THE NEW PROGRAM WORK?
These and other innovations make the W visa program
a bold, ambitious blueprint, likely to transform future
thinking about guest worker visas. Most employer groups
support the principles behind the new design, including
the idea of a “portable” visa that follows a worker from
job to job, and most seem open to a new merit-based
point system, which unlike previous points proposals,
puts a high premium on the applicant’s U.S. work histo-
ry and can only add visas to existing employment-based
quotas. Where the W visa program falls short: it is too
small — probably much too small — to keep up with
future labor needs and redirect unauthorized migration
into legal channels.
Future low-skilled labor needs are difficult if not impos-
sible to predict, especially in an economy as large and
dynamic as the United States, so many forecasters base
their estimates on past illegal flows. Every year from
2003 to 2009, more than 350,000 unauthorized Mexi-
cans traveled north to work in the United States. Virtual-
ly all came to the United States to work, and the flow was
highly responsive to the rise and fall of labor demand. At
the height of the housing boom in 2006 and 2007, more
than 650,000 unauthorized Mexicans made the trip each
year. But even in 2011, well into the downturn, the fig-
ure was more than 150,000.
37
Many business advocates
hoped the Senate would use these numbers as guide-
lines in setting quotas for the W visa program.
Instead, hemmed in by union pressure, the Senate Gang
of Eight set a first-year quota of 20,000 visas. The pro-
gram can grow: after a decade, it could issue as many
200,000 visas a year. But if the past is any guide, even
that number could be too low to meet labor demand in
a booming U.S. economy. The biggest loser would be
the construction industry, allotted just 15,000 visas a
year no matter how robust the economy — a laughable
number for a sector that employs more than 5.5 million
workers and is expected to add as many as 2 million by
2020.
38
In the eyes of employers who rely on less-skilled
immigrants to keep their businesses running and con-
tributing to the economy, these limits are a recipe for dis-
aster, sure to leave them and their businesses short and
generate massive illegal immigration in years to come.
39
Testmony by Ronil Hira before the Senate Judiciary Commitee on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigraton
Modernizaton Act, April 22, 2013, htp://www.judiciary.senate.gov/pdf/04-22-13HiraTestmony.pdf.
40
Eduardo Porter, “Illegal immigrants are bolstering Social Security with billions,” The New York Times, April 5, 2005, htp://www.
nytmes.com/2005/04/05/business/05immigraton.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0.
41
“E-Verify celebrates 2012!” The Beacon: The ofcial blog of United States Citzenship and Immigraton Services, March 28, 2013, htp://
blog.uscis.gov/2013/03/e-verify-celebrates-2012.html.
42
Hearing on the H-2B seasonal temporary worker program in the Subcommitee on Immigraton, Citzenship, Refugees, Border Security
and Internatonal Law of the House of Representatve Judiciary Commitee, April 16, 2008, htp://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-
110hhrg41796/html/CHRG-110hhrg41796.htm.
43
Michael Clemens and Lant Pritchet, “Temporary Work Visas: A Four-Way Win for the Middle Class, Low-Skill Workers, Border Security,
and Migrants,” Center for Global Development, April 2013, htp://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/fles/tme-bound-labor-access.pdf.
MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 16
WINNERS AND LOSERS
U.S. industry is well aware that a nation’s immigration
policy has to work for more than just employers. Indeed,
in the long run, it will not work for business if it does
not also work for immigrants, U.S. workers, and sending
countries – and in the U.S., as in Europe, there is consid-
erable debate about winners and losers.
Persistent critics, mostly on the left, accuse employers of
exploiting their foreign workers. Most of the criticism fo-
cuses on temporary visa programs, skilled and unskilled.
Detractors are particularly skeptical of employers who
hire large numbers of foreigners — on the theory that
the higher the percentage of visa workers in a company’s
labor force, the more likely the business is to be abusing
them. Suspicion falls most heavily on the largest Indian
IT offshore staffing companies, many of them firms with
large U.S. workforces made up almost entirely of foreign-
ers, and on agents who help small seasonal businesses
recruit less-skilled visa workers.
39
Also suspect in critics’
eyes are employers who hire unauthorized immigrants.

The business response is “show us proof.” There have
been some high-profile cases of wrongdoing in recent
years by Indian companies and a handful of seasonal
employers. And business advocates do not dispute that
there are bad-apple employers, companies whose busi-
ness model is built on underpaying foreign workers who,
because of their immigration status, are powerless to de-
fend themselves. But there is no evidence of widespread
abuse or systemic problems that cannot be addressed
within the framework of existing law.
According to the Social Security Administration, at least
75 percent of employers who hire unauthorized immi-
grants process them the same way they process author-
ized immigrants and U.S. workers: reporting them to the
government, withholding taxes, paying market wages,
and promoting them exactly like other employees.
40
Recent years have seen a rush of businesses signing up
voluntarily for the federal government’s electronic em-
ployment verification program, E-Verify, which tells an
employer in real time if a new hire is who he says he is
and eligible to work in the United States.
41
Meanwhile,
hundreds of thousands of migrants vote with their feet.
Eighty percent of workers in the seasonal H-2B visa pro-
gram return voluntarily year after year to the same em-
ployers — something not likely to happen if they were
unsatisfied with their jobs and were being abused by
employers.
42
Still other critics argue that immigration undermines
U.S. workers, and much of the public reflexively assumes
this to be true. But in this instance, too, the evidence is
weak. No serious U.S. economist has found that immi-
grants displace U.S. workers. Because they are generally
different from Americans — more or less educated, more
or less skilled — immigrants tend to complement rather
than compete with the native born, and as a result they
create and support jobs for Americans. Most economists
also agree that immigrants have little or no effect on the
wages of U.S. workers who have completed high school.
43
Where there is some dispute is about the consequences
of immigration for U.S. high school dropouts and oth-
er less-skilled immigrants. But even on this point, no
study has found a sizeable wage effect.
44
According to
Harvard’s George Borjas, a vocal critic of the low-skilled
influx, immigrants have reduced low-skilled Americans’
17 / MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS
wages by 4 percent over a period of 20 years.
45
Other
economists believe the figure is closer to 1 percent.
46

High school dropouts account for only 6 percent of the
U.S. labor force. And if anything, still other economists
have shown, immigration helps low-wage Americans by
reducing costs for food, clothing, housing, medical care
and a range of other services.
47
The third facet of the debate about winners and losers
— the impact of labor migration on sending countries —
gets little attention in the United States, from employers
or anyone else. The old term “brain drain” is rarely heard
today. To the degree that it is, it sounds like something
left over from another era of simpler, more ideological
politics. More top of mind for most Americans is the
rapid growth of remittances to Mexico and other immi-
grant-sending countries. In 1995, Mexican migrants in
the United States sent $3.7 billion home to family mem-
bers and others in their communities. By 2013, the figure
had ballooned to $22 billion, and while scholars might
quarrel about the effects on economic development,
much of the public and many lawmakers assume that
Mexico is benefitting from the transfers.
48
So too with
immigrants from India and China. Highly skilled Asian im-
migrants accounted for one-quarter of the U.S. IT start-
ups and one-third of the engineering work force in Silicon
Valley during the dot-com boom, and many Americans
just assume their success has spilled over in benefits for
their home countries — increased trade, investment, and
IT development at home.
49

Why aren’t Americans more interested in how migra-
tion affects sending countries? It may have something
to do with who makes immigration policy in Washing-
ton. Migration and foreign development assistance are
handled by different federal agencies and overseen by
different congressional committees, and there is little
dialogue among policymakers about how internation-
al flows might be leveraged to spur economic growth.
Nationally, there is no significant political constituency
with an interest in the economic prospects of developing
countries, or if there is, these voters exert little influence
on policy. People of Mexican descent account for more
than 10 percent of the population, yet by far the lion’s
share of U.S. foreign aid to Mexico goes to interdicting
illicit drugs, not economic development.
50
As for the gen-
eral public, even in the best of times, few Americans give
much thought to the consequences of their actions for
other nations, and public opinion is more insular and in-
ward-looking today than at any time in recent memory.
51

Bottom line: to the degree they think about it, most
Americans appear to believe that immigration is good
for sending countries. When the issue comes up in the
media, most discussion focuses on good news — remit-
tances, technology transfers, and experienced migrants
returning from the United States, bringing new ideas and
first-world habits back to the places where they were
born. Neither Mexico nor India complains to the United
States about the cost of labor migration. On the contra-
ry, both countries are eager to promote robust flows.
Certainly, nothing seems to diminish foreign demand for
visas. As a result, there is little domestic debate about
brain drain or brain gain, and little discussion of using
migration policy to maximize development in emerging
countries. The 2013 Senate bill, which clocks in at 1,197
pages, makes virtually no mention of the consequences
of migration, good or bad, for sending countries.
44
Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone, “What Immigraton Means for U.S. Employment and Wages,” The Hamilton Project, May 4,
2011, htp://www.hamiltonproject.org/fles/downloads_and_links/050412_jobs_greenstone_looney.pdf.
45
George Borjas, “Immigraton and the American Worker,” Center for Immigraton Studies, April 2013, htp://cis.org/immigraton-and-
the-american-worker-review-academic-literature.
46
Giovanni Peri and Gianmarco Otaviano, “Rethinking the Efect of Immigraton on Wages,” March 2010, htp://economics.ucdavis.edu/
people/gperi/site/papers/rethinking-the-efect-of-immigraton-on-wages.
47
Harry Holzer, “Immigraton Policy and Less-Skilled Workers in the United States,” Migraton Policy Insttute, January 2011, htp://www.
migratonpolicy.org/pubs/Holzer-January2011.pdf.
48
D’Vera Cohn, Ana Gonzalez Barrera, and Danielle Cuddington, “Remitances to Latn America recover — but not to Mexico,” Pew
Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, November 15, 2013, htp://www.pewhispanic.org/2013/11/15/remitances-to-latn-
america-recover-but-not-to-mexico/.
49
AnnaLee Saxenian with Yasuyuki Motoyama and Xiaohong Quan, “Local and Global Network of Immigrant Professionals in Silicon
Valley,” Public Policy Insttute of California, 2002, htp://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/r_502asr.pdf.
50
Mexico Insttute, “Linking Development & Migraton: A Binatonal U.S.-Mexico Dialogue,” Woodrow Wilson Internatonal Center
for Scholars, May 2012, htp://wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/fles/Linking%20Development%20%26%20Migraton%2C%20
A%2Binatonal%20U.S.-Mexico%20Dialogue.pdf.
51
Andrew Kohut, “American Internatonal Engagement on the Rocks,” Pew Research Center Global Attudes Project, July 11, 2013,
htp://www.pewglobal.org/2013/07/11/american-internatonal-engagement-on-the-rocks/.
MIGRATION STRATEGY GROUP ON GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS / 18
There is no predicting the outcome of the U.S. immigra-
tion debate. As this paper went to press in early 2014, it
looked unlikely that the House of Representatives would
act before the November elections to produce legislation
that could be reconciled with the Senate bill and signed
into law by the president. A number of measures regulat-
ing labor migration were pending in the House, including
a high-skilled worker visa bill and a measure reforming
the existing agricultural temporary visa program. And
House Republicans, once staunchly opposed to immigra-
tion reform, were now divided, with many, including par-
ty leaders, pushing to pass an overhaul – a change driven
in part by the new business engagement. Still, by early
2014, election year politics were getting in the way of
passing meaningful legislation – on any issue.
Why didn’t the sea change pay off? Why wasn’t the new
business engagement enough to drive a reform package
over the finish line in Congress? That’s not how the U.S.
system works. A single faction — business, labor, evan-
gelical Christians, or environmentalists, among others —
can block a bill in Washington. But no single constituency
can engineer passage of landmark legislation as sweep-
ing and complex as immigration reform. Big bills need
big coalitions behind them together with an array of
lawmakers from across the political spectrum who come
together in a grand dance to hammer out a compromise.
Business immigration advocacy is a potent new force,
but not decisive. Employers alone were not in a position
to force the House to act.
Still, whatever the outcome in 2014, one thing is clear:
U.S. employers have taken sides on immigration, and
they are not likely to retreat to the reticence or detach-
ment of years past. Employers who rely on immigrant
workers are not speaking out casually or on a whim –
they have a deep-seated, economic interest in fixing the
broken system. Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg
are not used to getting “no” for an answer. The CEOs of
Caterpillar and Motorola know how to make their pres-
ence felt in Washington. Now that they have found their
voice, business interests are unlikely to go silent.
CONCLUSION
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional,
national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. GMF does this by sup-
porting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and mem-
bers of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics,
and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship.
In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan,
non-profit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF
maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF
has offices in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Tunis. GMF also has smaller repre-
sentations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.
Established in 1964, the Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH is one of the major German foundations associated with a
private company. It represents the philanthropic and social endeavors of Robert Bosch (1861-1942) and fulfills his
legacy in a contemporary manner. The Robert Bosch Stiftung works predominantly in the areas of international
relations, science, health, education, society and culture. Under “Migration and Integration,” the Robert Bosch
Stiftung supports and develops feasible solutions for living together in a culturally diverse society. Since 2005,
more than €20 million have been spent to achieve this aim.

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