Skilled immigration reform and its benefits for the US economy

By Sahra Ali
April 9, 2014

Annwar Ahmadd, a resident of Philadelphia, starts his day off by calling his family in India. Every morning at 5:30 a.m. he calls his wife and kids, along with his parents, siblings and other relatives asking about school, how much they have grown, and what they had for lunch. “I miss my family, but I know that I’m doing more for them while I’m away from them,” Ahmadd said.

Ahmadd works as an engineer in Philadelphia and has been doing so for a few months now. He got an offer after he graduated with his Masters in his hometown of Mumbai, the capital of India, to work as an engineer for a company in the United States. Ahmadd took the offer thinking he would be able to bring along his family and get good pay. Soon after he found out that the company he was planning to work for wasn’t able to allow him to be accompanied by his family and that only he would be able to come and work. Looking out for the future of his children and family he took the job.

Ahmadd has the responsibility to his family to provide as much as he can. He not only provides for his wife and children, but also his parents, his siblings to help with their education, and as well as any other close relatives that might need additional support.

“When you’re an immigrant you have the responsibility of providing for all of the people you left,” Ahmadd said. “I send money home twice a month, sometimes more.”

“When my relatives in India talk about America they think money comes easy and that you don’t really have to work for it, but since coming here I realized that no matter where you are you have to work hard to survive,” Ahmadd said. Since many of his relatives don’t understand the hard work that someone needs to put in while living in the United States they expect more from him than he can manage.

“I am only here for a couple of years at the moment; after that I will probably have to go back,”  Ahmadd said. “But I am hopeful that I may be able to bring my wife and kids while I am still here.”

Immigration reform in the United States is a step forward that the government should to take in order to benefit fully from the advantages that immigrants bring into the nations economy. While there is a lot of feeling that immigrants bring the economy down and take jobs away from the rest of Americans, studies show that this is not necessarily the case. Many studies show that immigrants actually expand the US economy and drive up investments.

The Council on Foreign Relations has stated, “U.S. Immigration Policy contends that America has reaped tremendous benefits from opening its doors to immigrants, as well as to students, skilled employees and others who may only live in the country for shorter periods of time.” But they also warned that “the continued inability of the United States to develop and enforce a workable system of immigration laws threatens to undermine these achievements.”

A study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that “total immigration to the United States from 1990 to 2007 was associated with a 6.6 percent to 9.9 percent increase in real income per worker.” That equals an increase of about $5,100 in the yearly income of the average U.S. worker in constant 2005 dollars. Such a gain equals 20 percent to 25 percent of the total real increase in average yearly income per worker registered in the United States between 1990 and 2007.” The studies shows that in most cases, immigrants do not hurt the U.S. economy but actually contribute to improving the economy of the nation.

The study also stated that “there is no evidence that immigrants crowd out U.S.-born workers in either the short or long run. Data on U.S.-born worker employment imply small effects, with estimates never statistically different from zero.”

William Kerr of Harvard Business school stated in his paper, “In 2008, immigrants represented 16 percent of the U.S. workforce with a bachelor’s education, and they accounted for 29 percent of the growth in this workforce during the 1995-2008 period.”

The impact of  immigrants on the U.S. economy is a topic that is always up for debate . Some in favor of immigrants, argue that they do jobs that others aren’t able to while others argue that they are initially taking jobs away from U.S. workers.

In Ahmadd’s case, his current contract only lasts for two years. As of now he would have to go back after the contract expires but he is optimistic about what will happen in the future. Ahmadd explained that working in the United States will give him an advantage that would make him a top contender for work once he is back in India. “Once I go back I have the upper hand so I’m not worried.”

Sahra Ali

Communications major @ Cabrini College.

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