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This report examines the relationship between immigration and sustained U.S. economic growth. As the U.S. labor force ages and becomes better educated, the economy is continuing to create a substantial number of jobs for individuals with low levels of formal education and that favor younger workers. These trends are creating a critical demographic gap between U.S. labor supply and demand that immigration can help fill.
The public debate surrounding passage of the REAL ID Act by the House of Representatives on February 10 has raised the question of whether or not the U.S. asylum system is vulnerable to infiltration by foreign terrorists. Sponsors of the legislation, which now moves to the Senate for consideration, claim the Act would enhance security by making it more difficult for asylum seekers to prove their cases. However, the realities of asylum processing and the impact of reforms to the asylum system over the past decade point to a need for more resources rather than new restrictions. Abuses of the asylum system, including the most notorious cases cited by supporters of the REAL ID Act, have resulted primarily from applicants getting lost in bureaucratic backlogs or from over-worked Asylum Officers not having sufficient time to closely scrutinize the stories and evidence presented by asylum seekers. The integrity of the asylum system is enhanced by sufficient staffing and funding to allow the thorough and timely adjudication of asylum cases, and adequate training of the immigration inspectors who first come into contact with asylum seekers. Current law already denies asylum to individuals who have engaged in terrorist activity, committed serious crimes, or who may pose a danger to national security.1 And asylum applicants already undergo extensive security checks. The critical issue is whether or not the Asylum Officers who are assigned to review asylum claims have the time and resources they need to efficiently and effectively determine who is a legitimate refugee. The provisions of the REAL ID Act that would raise the bar for all asylum applicants do nothing
Foreign-born scientists and engineers (S&Es) have long played a prominent role in U.S. technological and scientific advancement and are a critical part of the science and engineering (S&E) labor force in corporations, universities, and research centers nationwide. However, long-standing structural flaws in the U.S. visa system and the unintended consequences of security procedures instituted since September 11, 2001, may be causing an increasing number of S&Es to forgo coming to the United States, thereby depriving the nation of a critical supply of human talent.
The current numerical limits on visas for both high-skilled and seasonal workers prevent U.S. businesses from hiring the workers they need, while doing nothing to protect the jobs or wages of native workers. Labor rights are most effectively guaranteed by enforcing labor protections, not by imposing arbitrary numerical caps.
A guest worker program that lacks a clearly defined path to a permanent status is an unlikely fit for many of the 9.3 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, most of whom have deep roots in U.S. families, communities and businesses.
In the hours following the deadly terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States government took the extraordinary step of sealing U.S. borders to traffic and trade by grounding all aircraft flying into or out of the country and imposing a lock-down on the networks of transportation and commerce that are the lifeblood of our economy and society. Given the uncertainty over what might happen next, these emergency procedures were a necessary and appropriate short-term response to the attacks. In the long run, however, a siege mentality and the construction of a fortress America are ineffective and unrealistic responses to the dangers we face. If we are to succeed in reducing our vulnerability to further terrorist attacks, we must focus our attention and resources on the gaps in intelligence gathering and information sharing that allowed nineteen terrorists to enter the United States. National security is most effectively enhanced by improving the mechanisms for identifying actual terrorists, not by implementing harsher immigration laws or blindly treating all foreigners as potential terrorists. Policies and practices that fail to properly distinguish between terrorists and legitimate foreign travelers are ineffective security tools that waste limited resources, damage the U.S. economy, alienate those groups whose cooperation the U.S. government needs to prevent terrorism, and foster a false sense of security by promoting the illusion that we are reducing the threat of terrorism.
Latinos experience substantial socioeconomic progress across generations compared to both their immigrant forefathers and native Anglos. But this fact is lost in statistical portraits of the Latino population which donat distinguish between the large number of newcomers and those who have been in the United States for generations. Advocates of restrictive immigration policies often use such aggregate statistics to make the dubious claim that Latinos are unable or unwilling to advance like the European immigrants of a century ago.
A growing number of foreign policy experts are voicing concern that certain restrictive policies toward non-citizens implemented by the U.S. government in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks may be causing long-term damage to U.S. foreign policy goals. According to these experts, some policies, in particular the registration requirements imposed on non-immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, have cast a net too wide to effectively enhance security, while promoting a perception that Muslims and Arabs are no longer welcome in the United States.