Why immigration reform would be good for Americans

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the U.S. Chamber blog here

Earlier this week, S&P chief US economist Beth Ann Bovino, made a strong case that immigration reform will be good for the economy [emphasis mine]:

If such immigration reform becomes law, we expect that it could add about 3.2 percentage points to real GDP in the next 10 years (2015 to 2024). It would likely add even more to growth in the following decade—a meaningful bump for an economy continuing to recover from the Great Recession. This would also help reduce Uncle Sam’s growing budget problems, likely cutting about $150 billion in real terms from our deficit in 10 years and likely even more the next.

Reform would “lead to higher productivity of both labor and capital because the influx of workers–particularly those highly skilled–could make for additional technological advancements, such as new inventions and improvements in production processes,” she writes.

In the report, Bovino tackles the question of why increasing immigration into the United States won’t hurt American workers [emphasis mine]:

The immigrants that come to the U.S. typically complement the native labor force; they don’t substitute for American workers. The two groups will overlap somewhat, in terms of demographic and socioeconomic features, but immigrants often fit into the labor force in areas and occupations where there are insufficient numbers of comparable native workers, both for high- and low-skilled occupations. In other words, more people entering the jobs market doesn’t mean lower wages and a higher unemployment rate, it means a bigger economy.

She explains:

Whether they are new immigrants or recent college graduates, new workers will need to buy food, some mode of transportation to get them to work, and other consumable goods and services. In short: They need to buy stuff, which creates more jobs. Demand for housing will also likely increase dramatically as these new immigrants enter the economy and form households. They would also need to buy furnishings, meaning more money spent, more jobs, and more tax revenue. Once businesses expand to absorb the larger work force to meet the increased demand from a larger population, these short-term imbalances to the labor market early on will give way to increased productivity and higher wages later.

Last year, Madeline Zavodny of the American Enterprise Institute and Tamar Jacoby, President of ImmigrationWorks USA wrote in more detail how immigrants are complements to and not substitutes for native workers.

Through a propensity for entrepreneurship—immigrants “are 30% more likely to start a new business than U.S.-born citizens”—increased innovation and productivity gains, as well as a greater number of people wanting more goods and services, immigration reform would provide an economic boost to the economy and in turn help American workers.

The time is now for immigration reform

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Editor’s note: This article and interview is from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, originally posted here.

The debate over immigration reform is as hot as ever—and the rhetoric is getting hotter. People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. It would do us good to cool down and reconsider some truths about immigration reform.

Our current system is broken. It isn’t serving the needs of businesses and employees or working for our economy and society. Employers are often unable to hire new high-skilled foreign-born professional workers—even those who are educated in the United States. Why? Because hiring caps were set more than 20 years ago when our economy was one-third its current size. And Congress hasn’t allocated for a single temporary foreign worker to legally enter our country for lesser-skilled year-round jobs—even if a business can’t find sufficient numbers of qualified and interested Americans through rigorous local labor market recruitment.

On top of that, we don’t have a uniform national mandatory electronic employment verification system—without one, the United States will remain a magnet for illegal immigration. More can also be done to keep our borders secure. And, finally, a system in which more than 11 million undocumented immigrants are living and working in our communities in de facto amnesty is indefensible.

Welcoming immigrants is good for our economy and our society. Immigrants do not typically compete with Americans for jobs, and, in fact, create more jobs through entrepreneurship, economic activity, and tax revenues. Immigrants serve as a complement to U.S.-born workers and can help fill labor shortages across the skill spectrum and in key sectors. Immigrants can also help replenish the workforce as baby boomers retire, growing our tax base and raising the worker-to-retiree ratio, which is essential to support programs for the elderly and the less fortunate.

Support for reform has never been stronger. Proponents of commonsense immigration reform include lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as labor, business, law enforcement, ethnic organizations, religious groups, and the high-tech industry. Most important, the public is overwhelmingly behind it. Polls consistently show that the majority of voters believe that the status quo on immigration is unacceptable.

There will never be a perfect time for reform. The political landscape isn’t going to be any more conducive to reform in two years or four years. For too long, the can has been kicked down the road. And while we’ve failed to act, the problem has only grown worse. Today, the fact remains that it is in our national interest to get it done.

The case for immigration reform is clear. The need is undeniable. The time is now.

The 2014 Public Policy Guide and business priorities released

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The Salt Lake Chamber released the business community’s priorities for the upcoming General Legislative Session within the 2014 Public Policy Guide. The Public Policy Guide was presented to the speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser Wednesday morning. The guide outlines the Chamber’s position on policy issues including economic development, education, transportation, water, energy and minerals, clean air, outdoor recreation and tourism, Downtown Rising, immigration, international competitiveness, and small business.

“The 2014 Public Policy Guide is a Chamber publication, but it represents the broad-based support of chambers of commerce across the state as well as other important business associations,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “These are the priorities of Utah’s diverse business sectors from across the state and it’s critical that we speak with one voice.”

View and download the 2014 Public Policy Guide PDF here.

Economic Development 
Economic development and job creation is the cornerstone priority for Utah’s business community. The 2014 Public Policy Guide highlights and supports the “Your Utah, Your Future” quality growth strategy, initiated by Gov. Gary Herbert and Envision Utah, in taking the long-term view on public policy issues. The guide also outlines priorities that will facilitate economic growth and strengthen the economy, including a continued stance against general tax increases not supported by the public, a commitment to eliminating harmful regulation and a collaborative challenge to enhance Utah’s competitiveness through attracting regional corporate headquarters to the state.

“Utah’s economy is extremely well-positioned for continued growth in 2014. The private-sector is set to accomplish the significant goal of creating 150,000 jobs since the recession–more than a year ahead of schedule,” said Natalie Gochnour, chief economist of the Salt Lake Chamber and associate dean of the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business. “However, Utah’s economy faces economic headwinds from our nation’s capital and risks economic hardship if we do not address our education system and transportation infrastructure.”

Prosperity 2020
An educated workforce has a direct correlation with economic prosperity and is a top priority for Utah’s business community. To be globally competitive, Utah must return to a top-10 state in overall education rankings. To meet this challenge, the Chamber outlines key priorities to improve: 4th grade reading scores; 8th grade math scores; high school completion and college and career readiness; innovative teaching in public education; and Utah’s ability to reach 66 percent of Utahns with postsecondary degrees or certificates.

“Investing in our children is the best investment we can make as a community,” said Alan Hall, Chair ofProsperity 2020, founder and co-managing director of Mercato Partners, and chairman of Marketstar. “Facing unprecedented growth, we need to ensure that the largest population of young people in the country will be deployed as the best educated workforce, propelling Utah to enduring prosperity.”

Prosperity 2020 and the business community, through school-business partnerships, can improve school environments and boost outcomes for students. In addition to advocacy, the Utah business community has developed partnerships that support our education system and improve outcomes. The guide highlights how businesses across the state are becoming directly involved in the educational success of Utah’s children through a myriad of partnerships, including tutoring students, volunteering in classrooms, sponsoring activities, advising programs of study, providing internships and funding scholarships.

“Utah’s business leaders understand the urgency of addressing our education challenges,” said Beattie. “As a strong backer of the Prosperity 2020 movement, we are very supportive of the priorities and commitment of the Legislature’s Education Taskforce and will work to make these policies a reality.”

Recent completions of major transportation initiatives have made Utah a national example in our commitment to disciplined planning and investment in transportation infrastructure. As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, continued investments are critical to economic growth and accommodating future generations of Utahns.

“Our community continues to rapidly grow,” said H. David Burton, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition.  “We must act now to ensure future generations can enjoy economic prosperity and a high quality of life.”

The guide outlines support for a five-year action plan to fully fund Utah’s prioritized transportation needs identified in Utah’s 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. This action plan includes allowing local governments to address their urgent transportation challenges, investments to improve our transit system, and a call for the expansion and inflation-adjustment of user fees to meet critical needs.

“Investments in transportation infrastructure benefit every aspect of our economy,” said David Golden, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition, and executive vice president and manager of Wells Fargo Commercial Banking Group’s Mountain Division. “The need for investment is critical and requires immediate action in order to sustain and enhance our world-class business and economic climate.”

Natural Resource Business Council
Utah’s spectacular natural environment is a legacy passed to us from preceding generations and is a key component of the state’s economy and high quality of life. The guide is the debut of the Chamber’s Natural Resource Business Council, which represents a comprehensive approach to the state’s natural environment and important sectors of Utah’s economy. The Chamber’s clean air and energy and minerals task forces, as well as two new Chamber initiatives in Water and Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, are organized under the Council.

“Utah’s natural resources provide Utah families with unparalleled life quality and economic opportunities,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “We owe future generations our best stewardship efforts to ensure they enjoy the same advantages we now enjoy.”

The Natural Resource Business Council priorities include developing a long-term vision on Utah’s water needs, enhancing rural economic development, improving transportation options to Utah’s energy rich Uinta Basin, supporting Utah’s tourism marketing and addressing air quality issues.

Specifically, the guide highlights the Chamber’s support for: the PM2.5 State Implementation Plan, increased transportation funding to improve our transit system and reduce idling on Utah’s roadways, cleaner vehicles, increased efforts for public awareness and research, and incentives to facilitate small businesses’ participation in emission reductions.

“Air quality for many Utahns’ is the state’s most pressing issue,” said Beattie. “Clean air makes good business sense and the Utah business community is committed to being a champion for improving our air quality.”

The 2014 Public Policy guide is available online at www.slchamber.com/PPG2014.

Here are some photos from the event where we presented speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser:

Case for Immigration Reform Gets Stronger

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Editor’s note: this article was originally published on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog, Free Enterprise. You can find the article here

Getting 600 people from the across the country together in Washington, DC requires a compelling issue, like fixing America’s broken immigration system. Last week, an event at the U.S. Chamber, leaders representing business, law enforcement and the religious communities discussed discussed why the House of Representatives should act now on immigration reform.

One of the most-compelling arguments for reform is the economic benefits that will come from it. At the event, the Bipartisan Policy Center study released a study that found that immigration reform will mean faster economic growth; federal deficit reduction; a larger and younger workforce; and higher long-term wages.

Here are some key findings from the study:

 - Spur economic growth. Immigration reform would cause the U.S. economy to grow an additional 4.8 percent over a 20-year period, including 2.8 percent in the first decade (as measured by gross domestic product, or GDP). Annual average growth would be 0.24 percent higher, peaking at 0.35 percent in FY2019–FY2023.
 - Reduce federal deficits. Cumulative deficits would fall by nearly $1.2 trillion over a 20-year period. About $180 billion of this reduction would occur in the first decade, and $990 billion in the second decade.
 - Jump-start the housing recovery. Immigration reform would dramatically increase demand for housing units. This would increase residential construction spending by an average of $68 billion per year over the 20-year period.
 - Expand the labor force. By 2033, the labor force would be 8.3 million people larger, an increase of 4.4 percent compared with the baseline.
 - Offset aging of the workforce. After accounting for fertility, mortality, and emigration, immigration reform would add 13.7 million people to the population by FY2033. Just 6 percent of these people would be age 65 or older. By comparison, the Census Bureau projects that 20 percent of U.S. residents will be 65 or older in 2030.
 - Increase long-term wages. Wages would initially fall due to the large influx of workers, but rise in the long-term. Real wages in FY2023 would be about 0.2 percent below the baseline, but would be 0.5 percent higher than the baseline in FY2033.

See the infographic below.

The event was put on by the U.S. Chamber, the Bibles, Badges, and Business initiative of the National Immigration Forum, Fwd.us, and the Partnership for a New American Economy along with 30 other sponsoring organizations.

These conclusions don’t sit well with reform opponents like the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s Eric Ruark who in a post about the study, tossed out ad hominem attacks towards anyone who wants to fix our broken immigration system.

Being snarky avoids having to acknowledge that 1) the United States will be better off if we are more welcoming to immigrants of all skill levels; and 2) since our founding, the United States has benefited from immigration. Even today parts of our country would be much worse off without the contributions from immigrants, as Andrew Wainer, senior immigration-policy analyst for the Bread for the World Institute, writes in National Journal:

The economic contribution of immigrants in high-skilled fields is relatively well known, but less acknowledged are the contributions that blue-collar immigrants play in revitalizing depressed communities and economies, both as manual laborers and small-business entrepreneurs.

In Rust Belt places such as Baltimore, Detroit, and rural southeastern Iowa, immigration has slowed—and in some cases reversed—decades of population loss. In July 2012, after 60 years of population decline, the Census Bureau reported an increase in Baltimore’s population. The increase was attributed in part to growing international migration. Detroit is infamous for its population decline, which has continued since 1950. But it would be worse if it were not for the influx of immigrants from Latin America. Between 2000 and 2010 Detroit lost 237,000 residents—25 percent of the total population in just 10 years. But the city’s southwest immigrant neighborhoods, an area known as “Mexicantown” actually increased in population. While the city lost 41,000 whites and more than 185,000 blacks during this decade, it gained 1,512 Latinos.

Those 600 who came to Washington last week, proved that there’s public support for immigration reform, and there have been plenty of studies showing that the country will be better off for it. It’s up to the House of Representatives to act.

The Power of Courage

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

A few months ago, my 10-year-old son asked me if I knew anyone truly courageous. I had to pause. In a culture consumed with a twerking Miley Cyrus, Norwegians singing about foxes, government shutdowns and other ridiculous behaviors, courage isn’t an everyday occurrence.

So it took me a while to think of someone I considered truly courageous.  And then I remembered Utah Sen. Curt Bramble.

Sen. Bramble isn’t a close friend—we’ve only met a couple of times. But I like him because you always know where he stands.  A few years ago, he took on powerful political forces in his party and backyard on the emotional and complicated issue of immigration reform.  He stood side by side with Sen. Luz Robles and others pushing for reform and said, “This is what I believe and this is where I stand. I am willing to accept the consequences of doing what I think is right.”

At the time, party activists told him that his political career was over.  They promised to oust him in Utah’s caucus system. The proposals he championed were commonsense laws, supported by the business community and religious leaders. The threats were real but Bramble didn’t back down. In fact, threats only made him more determined. By showing courage in the face of threatened political defeat, he went on to be vindicated in the 2012 caucuses and election.

Every day, ordinary people do remarkable and courageous things.  In many ways, these simple acts of courage or defiance help to move our society forward.  As Malcolm Gladwell says in his new book, David and Goliath: “Much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.”

Now the issue of immigration reform has moved from the state legislature to the federal level—where it should have been all along.  And after nearly three decades, Congress is finally poised to fix America’s broken immigration system.  Now is the time for our national leaders to display the same kind of courage Sen. Bramble displayed.

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit with several members of Utah’s congressional delegation. I was part of a national group of 600 business, religious and law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., to push for a comprehensive solution to immigration reform. The 13-member Utah delegation included representatives from law enforcement, manufacturing, hospitality, agriculture, construction and high tech industries.

I was impressed with the depth of knowledge our House members displayed on the issue. They understand the debilitating impact our broken immigration system has on Utah businesses and families. This year in the Beehive State, crops went un-harvested, fruit rotted on trees, we turned away some of he world’s best and brightest graduates and with hundreds of engineering jobs that can’t be filled by U.S. citizens. Nobody in our meetings wanted amnesty, but we all expressed the same concerns. The current situation is untenable and now is the time for Congress to act.

Utah’s congressional leaders have the capacity to show enormous courage and leadership on this issue as they work to find solutions instead of the classic Washington excuses for another year of inaction. Here’s what house members can do:

First Congressional District
Rep. Rob Bishop can play a unique leadership role. After six terms in congress he has the seniority, stature and relationships to make a real difference. He is respected by congressional leadership and is seen as a consensus builder and statesman. He has an important role to play in solving this seemingly intractable problem.  His lifetime of public service, as a schoolteacher, state legislator and member of Congress gives him a remarkable depth of perspective and understanding.

Second Congressional District
You don’t get the MacKay Trophy or break the world record for fastest nonstop flight a round the world without courage.  Rep. Chris Stewart has written eloquently about our country’s destiny during difficult times in the past.  Now providence has given him an opportunity to show leadership, courage and determination in forging a path forward on immigration reform.

Third Congressional District
Rep. Jason Chaffetz is one of the most effective communicators in Congress today. He has already shown great leadership on this issue by co-sponsoring several bills to deal with immigration reform, including HR 1417, HR 2131, HR 2278, HR 1772 and HR 1773. I appreciate what he has already done for individual immigrants trying to work in the confines of a broken system, and ask him to do even more to lead out and fix the system in an inclusive way.

Fourth Congressional District
It takes courage and deft negotiation skills to run successfully time and again as a Democrat in deeply red Utah. Rep. Jim Matheson is seen as a reasonable and moderate leader by legislators on both sides of the aisle. By championing reform, he would again rise above the partisan bickering that engulfs our nation’s capital to find a commonsense, thoughtful solution to this issue as he has on so many others.

Three years ago, Utah’s faith community stood with business leaders and political officials to sign The Utah Compact, a declaration of five principles to guide Utah’s immigration policy discussions.  The first principle of the Compact states:

Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders.

Now is the time for our congressional delegation to lead, through courage and a sense of urgency to find solutions that protect our borders, improve our economy, keep families together and reinforce our values as a free society.

This post was authored by Jason Mathis, executive vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber. 

Debunking Immigration Myths – Part II

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Editor’s note: This article is a two-part series published on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog Free Enterprise. You can find the original article here

Despite the numerous studies and carefully detailed economic reports outlining the positive effects of immigration, there is a great deal of misinformation about the impact of immigration.

The U.S. Chamber has compiled common myths and facts that show that immigrants significantly benefit the U.S. economy by creating new jobs, and complementing the skills of the U.S. native workforce, with a net positive impact on wage rates overall.

Yesterday, we looked at the first batch of our common myths. Today, we look at a few more.

MYTH: Immigrants hurt communities that are struggling economically.

FACT: In addition to boosting the national economy and strengthening America’s global competitiveness, immigrants and immigrant entrepreneurs are important for metropolitan regional economies. An increasing number of local communities, such as Dayton, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan, are recognizing the need to be receptive to immigrants and are officially becoming places of welcome that encourage openness to immigration and support immigrant integration.

MYTH: Undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes.

FACT: According to the Social Security Administration, undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion in payroll taxes into the Social Security Trust Funds in 2010 alone. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that households headed by undocumented immigrants paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010.

MYTH: Immigrants come to the United States for welfare benefits.

FACT: Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefits such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Medicare, and food stamps. Even most legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for five years or longer, regardless of how much they have worked or paid in taxes.

MYTH: Today’s immigrants are not assimilating into U.S. society.

FACT: Today’s immigrants are buying homes, becoming U.S. citizens, and learning English. Between 1990 and 2008, the share of these immigrants who owned homes jumped from 16 to 62 percent, and the share who were U.S. citizens grew from seven to 56 percent.

MYTH: Immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

FACT: Immigration does not cause crime rates to rise, and immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than native-born Americans. In 2006, the 10 states with the most pronounced, recent increases in immigration had the lowest rates of crime in general and violent crime in particular.

MYTH: Reforming the legal immigration system will not help secure the border.

FACT: Since 1986, after passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the federal government has spent an estimated $186.8 billion on immigration enforcement. Yet during that time, the unauthorized population has tripled in size to 11 million. This did not occur because $186.6 billion was not enough to get the job done. It occurred because this money was spent trying to enforce immigration laws that have consistently failed to match either the U.S. economy’s demand for workers or the natural desire of immigrants to be reunited with their families. Therefore, enforcement coupled with commonsense reforms to our legal immigration system is one of the most effective ways to enhance national security.

For more information on the U.S. Chamber’s immigration policy, go to http://immigration.uschamber.com/

Debunking Immigration Myths – Part I

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Editor’s note: This article is a two-part series published on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog Free Enterprise. You can find the original article here

Despite the numerous studies and carefully detailed economic reports outlining the positive effects of immigration, there is a great deal of misinformation about the impact of immigration.

In this two-part series, the U.S. Chamber has compiled common myths and facts that show that immigrants significantly benefit the U.S. economy by creating new jobs, and complementing the skills of the U.S. native workforce, with a net positive impact on wage rates overall.

MYTH: Every job filled by an immigrant is a job that could be filled by an unemployed American.

FACT: Immigrants typically do not compete for jobs with native-born workers and immigrants create jobs as entrepreneurs, consumers, and taxpayers. The Partnership for a New American Economy estimates that immigrant-owned businesses “generate more than $775 billion in revenue, $125 billion in payroll, and $100 billion in income, employing one out of every 10 workers along the way.”

MYTH: Immigrants drive down the wages of American workers.

FACT: Immigrants give a slight boost to the average wages of Americans by increasing their productivity and stimulating investment. A 2010 report from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that, from 1994 to 2007, immigration increased the wages of native-born workers by 0.4 percent.

MYTH: The sluggish U.S. economy doesn’t need more immigrant workers.

FACT: Immigrants will replenish the U.S. labor force as millions of Baby Boomers retire. As older Americans retire, labor-force growth will actually slow, averaging only 0.7 percent between 2010 and 2020 (even with calculating current rates of immigration). The rate of labor-force growth would be even lower over the coming decade if not for the influx of new immigrants into the labor market.

MYTH: At a time of high unemployment, the U.S. economy does not need temporary foreign workers.

FACT: Temporary workers from abroad fill specialized needs in specific sectors of the U.S. economy. According to a 2013 report by researchers from The Brookings Institution, “evidence suggests that the H-1B program does help fill a shortage in labor supply for the occupations most frequently requested by employers. Most of these are for STEM occupations.”

MYTH: There is no shortfall of native-born Americans for open positions in the natural sciences, engineering, and computer science, and thus no need for foreign-born high-tech workers.

FACTS: Job openings are expanding at educational levels where demographic data show too few native-born students, so we can expect these shortfalls to persist in the future. Currently, the number of American students pursuing STEM fields is growing at less than one percent per year, and by 2018 there will be more than 230,000 advanced degree STEM jobs that will not be filled even if every new American STEM grad finds a job.

Tomorrow, we’ll tackle a few more common myths about immigration.

For more information on the U.S. Chamber’s immigration policy, go to http://immigration.uschamber.com/

Immigration reform — a farmer’s view

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Editor’s note: This op-ed, originally from the Deseret News, was written by Robert McMullin, president of McMullin Orchards in Payson, Utah, a family-owned farm established by his grandfather in 1927. You can find the article here

Our immigration system is broken. The negative consequences for each of us of that broken system are too numerous to ever list fully. But as a Utah County fruit grower, I can share with you my own experience.

In the four harvests from 2008 to 2011, our operation picked, packed and shipped almost 15,000 boxes of cherries, each weighing 16 pounds. This past season we simply could not get enough pickers — even at well over minimum wage, with some earning up to $20 per hour — so the 15,000 boxes dropped to 3,000. You can do the math, but a loss of 160,000 pounds of cherries means a reduction of $300,000 in gross revenue to our operation — $2 per pound lost from mechanical picking for juice. We also left over four tons of sweet cherries in the field because we lacked manpower.

Not all that lost revenue would have been profit. Much of it would have gone to wages and maintaining and improving our operations. But that lost $300,000 will now never be spent in Utah County at the farm supply store, the truck dealership or the grocer’s by our workers or us; that revenue was not lost only to our business, but to our community as a whole. Economists will tell you that every dollar earned on a farm like ours “multiplies” six or seven times in the local community when paid out as wages, expenses and investment. That means that our loss of revenue resulted in as much as $2.1 million lost to the Utah County economy as a whole.

Even today we are wasting peaches, apples and pears because we cannot get them picked in time. The work is strenuous and temporary, and most Americans simply won’t do it. We don’t know yet how much labor shortages will cost us on these harvests, but the loss will be substantial both for the local economy and us.

That is why immigration reform matters to me, and why it should matter to you.

The amazing thing about Utah County is that we suffer at both ends of the immigrant labor scale. I’ve attended meetings in which leaders of the many high-tech firms located here express similar frustrations about shortages of engineers and programmers. Each immigrant engineer could help create as many as six other jobs for our own citizens. Far from protecting American workers, our dysfunctional immigration system is killing American jobs.

I’ve noticed that the comments following any article favoring immigration reform come from a group of people who claim to know more about farms and high tech businesses than those who actually run them. According to these readers, the only reason I can’t get enough labor is because I haven’t tried hard (or paid) enough. But to all those so quick to criticize our call for reform, I offer a standing invitation: Come on out to our farm and we’ll put you to work! It’s funny how none of those naysayers ever show up.

Utah County stands apart as immigration “Ground Zero” at both ends of the economic spectrum. There are few individual counties nationwide where agriculture and high-tech are such huge players in a single local economy, both industries desperate for prudent immigration reform.

We are not asking for open borders or so-called “blanket amnesty,” nor are we endorsing any particular bill. Utah businesses of all types are asking our Congressional representatives to look at the needs of our economy, pay heed to the job creators and take a leadership role in passing an immigration deal we can all live with.


Utah higher education leaders call for immigration reform

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Today, seven university leaders in Utah sent a joint letter to the Utah U.S. House delegation calling for immigration reform to be passed this year.

The letter was signed by:

·         David W. Pershing, Ph.D., President, University of Utah
·         Charles A. Wight, President, Weber State University
·         Stan L. Albrecht, 
President, Utah State University
·         Scott L. Wyatt, 
President, Snow College
·         Stephen D. Nadauld, Ph.D., President, Dixie State University
·         Brian Levin-Stankevich, Ph.D., President, Westminster College
·         Rich Kendell, President, Southern Utah University

“I join my colleagues in calling for the passage of immigration reform legislation this year. The system is long overdue for significant change,” said  Charles A. Wight, President of Weber State University. “We need a market-based system for visas that responds to the needs of our businesses and economy. We also need to pass the DREAM Act so that children who have grown up in America have an opportunity to become citizens and have an incentive to pursue higher education.”

The letter cites several reasons for the need to pass immigration reform legislation this year, including:

·         The prevalence of foreign-born students graduating with master’s or PhDs in STEM fields
·         The high demand for STEM graduates by businesses
·         The potential impact to the economy from passage of the DREAM Act
·         The need of the agricultural industry for more low-skill visas

“The demand for STEM graduates is too high to be met with only American students,” said David Pershing, President of University of Utah.  “That is why we must keep more of the foreign-born graduates from these fields in the United States to work for American companies.  Their education and innovation benefits our economy when they remain here to work, instead of going to other countries to compete against us.”

Read the full letter here.

Study shows immigration reform means jobs for Utah

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

While the House of Representatives continues to work toward a series of bills that will address then nation’s broken immigration system and help strengthen our national economy, a new web tool is helping break down just how big of an impact immigration reform will have in each district.

The American Action Network (AAN) posted the tool on its website, saying its research shows, “a conservative approach to immigration reform will help local economies in every congressional district in America.”

That’s certainly the case in Utah. According to the AAN, the state would add 24,807 new jobs by 2023 by temporary workers visas and legalization of undocumented workers under the Senate’s immigration bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. This number was calculated using data from the Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) study “Key Components of Immigration Reform.”

The number of jobs created per district reflects jobs created from both temporary worker visas and permanent immigration through green cards as these programs would change due to the Senate bill.

The First District, represented by Rep. Rob Bishop, would see 15,350 of those new jobs. Utah’s Second District, represented by Rep. Chris Stewart would add 15,476 new jobs. The Third District, represented by Rep. Chaffetz, would see an increase of 15,545 jobs. And Rep. Matheson’s Fourth District would add 15,413 jobs.

These numbers were calculated with data from the REMI study and the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the benefits of Senate bill’s economic impact.