JSOnline August 26, 2013: Manufacturers need immigration reform.
Manufacturers need immigration reform
When lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., in September, they will have an opportunity to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. With the Senate successfully advancing legislation in June — and the House continuing to deliberate on a path forward — the country is closer to comprehensive reform than it has been in decades.
Opponents of immigration reform have turned to political attacks, but despite these tactics, it does not change the bottom line. Immigration reform is a competitiveness issue, particularly for manufacturers in the United States — and it’s in everyone’s interest that our nation’s job creators have all the tools they need to compete in the global economy.
After all, manufacturing powers the economy. Twenty percent of Wisconsin’s gross domestic product comes from manufacturing — the highest per capita in the nation. However, in Wisconsin and throughout the United States, manufacturers are facing significant challenges and uncertainty due to high taxes, overregulation and rising health care costs. On top of all these impediments to growth, manufacturers must contend with workforce challenges.
Today, manufacturers are struggling to fill jobs, even in this time of high unemployment. Some 600,000 manufacturing jobs are open because employers can’t find workers with the right skills.
The skills gap is felt across the U.S. — even more so in Wisconsin where population growth in coming years won’t come close to keeping up with our workforce needs. Immigration reform is the fastest and most sensible way to solve this problem.
Groups like ours are spearheading a number of initiatives to train and educate workers for a career in modern manufacturing. Those efforts, however, will take time, and we need workers to fill manufacturers’ immediate needs. That’s why it’s essential that we reform our lesser-skilled immigration system that allows foreign talent to be hired if Americans are unavailable.
In the short term, manufacturers can secure talent abroad to meet their workforce needs. The U.S. is educating the best and brightest in the world, only to see them forced to leave after receiving their degrees. Without major reforms, we will continue sending talent to our competitors and turning away a future generation of entrepreneurs.
In fact, more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were either started by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, according to a study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, and manufacturers are well represented in this group.
American manufacturing enterprises founded by immigrants span all sectors, from technology to steel to chemicals to medical devices to many others. We do not want to lose this economic driver.
The argument for reform goes beyond economic reasons. Manufacturers are anchors of the communities that they have helped build, and we know that comprehensive immigration reform is essential to strengthening the fabric of our communities.
America’s story is an immigrant story — of people who came here because they believed in the American dream and wanted to play a part in its success. That’s why immigration reform must include a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented individuals in the U.S.
Immigration reform will strengthen our national and economic security and our communities.