Second Wave of Immigration Ushers in Opportunity as Well as Diversity28 Oct 2014
In a promising sign that our economy is finally recovering after a prolonged recession, the number of foreign-born people in the United States grew by 523,400 last year. This is the biggest jump since 2006, and is fueled in no small part by immigrants from Asia, including a significant number of skilled tech workers from India. As employers begin to feel secure enough to hire again, skilled foreign workers who are eligible for H1B status are in high demand. In 2011, it took eight months for businesses to file enough cap-subject H1B petitions to reach the federal quota. Compare that to this year, when the cap was reached as soon as it opened. It is apparent that, after a brief decline due to the sluggish economy, the U.S. is once again experiencing an immigration wave reminiscent of the beginning of the 20th century, when Ellis Island was opened and millions of immigrants arrived to transform the face of the nation. This so-called “second wave” of immigrants is ushering in some indelible changes to our social and economic landscape. [See Wave Of Immigrants to U.S. Resurges, by Neil Shah, The Wall Street Journal, 9.Oct.2014.]
USA Today has used census data to calculate the chances that two random people are different by race or ethnicity, and created a diversity index, placing every county in the United States on a scale from 0 to 100. In 2010, the national average was 55. By 2060, it is projected to jump to 70, meaning that there will be a less than one-in-three chance our neighbors, coworkers, and friends will share our ethnicity, whatever it is. And, while 49 percent of Americans polled feel that the country will be better off as a result of increased diversification, tensions still exist. Recent attempts to construct affordable housing in New Jersey and California, which would have introduced a more diverse cross-section of residents, was met with heated opposition by residents fearful that immigrants introduce a negative, even criminal element to the community. Yet, research suggests that immigrants have the potential to exponentially strengthen our economy and global power. [See Second Immigration Wave Lifts Diversity to Record High, by Greg Toppo and Paul Overberg, USA Today, 14.Oct.2014.]
Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that immigration reform potentially could pump $1.4 trillion into the U.S. economy over the next twenty years. Skilled immigrants with H1B visas are in high demand and could increase the labor force by up to sixteen million workers if reforms were passed. They also tend to procure high paying jobs, which enable them to contribute more to consumer spending, further stimulating the economy. Immigrants start businesses at an accelerated rate, as well, creating new employment opportunities for Americans. And while much of Europe and parts of Asia are struggling with the challenges of an aging population and shrinking workforce, the United States has one of the highest birthrates in the developed world, in part due to the surge of young immigrants getting jobs and starting families. [See Economists: Increasing Immigration is One of the Ways to Spark Growth, by Patrice Hill, The Washington Times, 19.March.2014.]
As we continue to recover from a lengthy recession, the second wave of immigrants coming into the United States is one of the strongest signs that positive change is on the horizon. As the diversification of our nation increases, so does the opportunity for economic growth and the strengthening of our global presence.
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