Reforms are needed to policies for high- and lower-skilled immigrants so they can remain in the United States and perform jobs Americans either aren't qualified for or willing to do, says Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue.
Donohue, in an McClatchy-Tribune News Service
op-ed piece, said steps should be made to retain talent "at all ends of the spectrum can live and work in the United States.
Drawing top talent to the United States brings investment dollars to the United States, said Donohue, but the reverse is also true.
"If companies can't find talent on U.S. soil, or if it becomes too costly and burdensome, they will move their operations elsewhere," said Donohue. "It's in our own best interests to welcome the world's brightest minds and hardest workers into our economy."
More than half the students studying natural sciences and engineering disciplines, or STEM disciplines, at U.S. colleges and universities are from foreign countries, said Donohue, but the number of Americans studying such disciplines at less than one percent per year.
But the number of American students is growing at less than one percent a year.
"By 2018, there will be 230,000 unfilled positions requiring advanced STEM degrees, even if every U.S. STEM grad finds a job," writes Donohue.
But it's not only the high-skilled fields that need filling — but lesser-skilled fields also have insufficient numbers of U.S. workers willing to fill the positions.
"Studies have concluded that the greatest percentage of job growth in the United States through 2020 is expected in low- and moderate-skilled jobs that cannot be automated or outsourced," said Donohue. "Services like home health and nursing home care, landscaping and hospitality cannot be provided without capable staff ready to do the work."
Immigrants are behind tech companies and businesses such as Google, Yahoo, Big Lots, and BJ's Wholesale Club, said Donohue, and reforms must be made to immigration policies to leverage the education and efforts of people who want to come to the United States.
"Those essential contributions to our workforce and our economy are at risk," said Donohue. "We're sending foreign-born students educated in the United States back to their home countries, or to competitors, to compete against us. We're sending companies the message that their investments may be better off somewhere else, where workers are available to fill their jobs and serve their customers."
Congress must set aside politics and modernize the immigration system, said Donohue, including improving employment verification, greater border security and pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
"If we don't act on this national priority soon, we'll fall behind in the global competition for talent, putting our economy and American jobs at risk," said Donohue.
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