Why immigration reform matters now: A college student explains

By Raunaq Singh, Guest Contributor , written on April 21, 2014

From The News Desk

Editor's note: This is a guest contribution by Raunaq Singh, a freshman at NYU, studying political economy.

Earlier this month, we learned that high-skilled visas for those hoping to immigrate to the US had evaporated in one workweek. And yet it seems that interest in immigration reform is dying.

It’s incredible that in a time where an issue is mostly agreed upon by both Republicans and Democrats that a solution can’t come to pass. With midterm elections coming, don’t expect progress to come our way.

Though this bodes bad news for everyone, it particularly hits hard amongst many of my peers and classmates. As a college student, it’s been supremely uninspiring to remain hopeful of our political system while some peers struggle for no real reason at all.

Though the 2012-2013 school year saw an increase of 7 percent in foreign students studying in the US, it has actually become even more difficult to retain full-time employment stateside due to visa limitations. These are the very same students that pay the same amount of tuition as me and have contributed $24.7 billion of tuition and living expenses to metropolitan areas. 42% of international students are focusing in one of our country’s biggest needs by pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. 81% of these students at the undergraduate level are also paying out of their own pocket by relying on either personal or family funds for tuition.

So why is it then that we haven’t given them an equal shot at opportunity and success?

If a push were to be made for immigration reform now, benefits would still be reaped. One report shows that reform could spur the US economy to grow as much as 4.8 percent over the next 20 years including a 2.8 percent boost in the first decade alone. Tech hub San Francisco has continued to see economic growth with the unemployment rate falling from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 5.7 percent in 2013. Entrepreneur and academic, Vivek Wadhwa in a talk at the Council of Foreign Relations reported that high skilled immigrants have led to the creation of 52% of Silicon Valley tech companies and 25% of patent filings worldwide.

But not only do immigrants create jobs, they also fill desperately needed ones. One particular reason for economic growth could also be the filling of shortages in talent. has released a report that 9 out of every 10 schools in America don’t offer computer programming. By the year 2020 we will have 1,000,000 more jobs in the tech field than capable students of computer science.

If the need for high-tech students were to increase while the availability of skilled tech workers lags behind, it would make sense to increase the allotment of visas for those with the necessary skills. Yet that is not so. The allocation of H-1B’s has remained capped in past years at 85,000.

The National Science Foundation has shown that the percentage of foreign-born workers in the science and engineering field with a college education has increased from 22.4% in 2000 to 26.2% in 2011. The percentage of foreign workers with a doctorate has also increased from 37.6% in 2000 to 43.2% in 2011. But the numbers of H1-B’s granted in total by the United States in 2012 fell to 136,000 from the 154,000 visas granted in 2007. As foreign-born workers have grown more educated and valuable to the American economy, the number of H1-B’s granted have not responded in kind. (This number is larger than the 85,000 cap because it includes the H-1B’s granted by universities and non-profits.)

The issue of immigrants filling jobs or creating jobs is not just a story that matters to the fan boys of Silicon Valley but rather to America as a whole. As AOL Chairman Steve Case said during his recent Pando Monthly interview, “we can only have the leading economy if we are the most innovative entrepreneurial nation... [It's] not just an immigration issue or a battle for talent issue, it really is a future-of-the-nation issue.”

Editor’s note:  This is a guest contribution by Raunaq Singh, a freshman at NYU, studying political economy. The post went through Pando’s usual editorial process and Mr Singh was paid for his work.

[Image credit: Public domain]