by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Thomas Donlan of Barron’s is unlikely to win an invitation to speak to groups calling for increased immigration enforcement in the United States. His latest column carries the headline “Open the Door Wider.”
The most widely accepted feature of the muddled U.S. immigration policy is the Reagan-era law that orders employers not to hire workers who aren’t authorized to be here. The law has been toughened several times since, each time putting more onus on employers. Whether they need software engineers or fruit-pickers, they face stiff penalties for hiring the wrong people.
There is no good reason American employers should be forced to join the immigration police; they should be at liberty to find and hire the workers they want. The idea of a work permit is bad enough; the idea of an employment permit is still more oppressive.
Placing American citizens at the head of every hiring list has been made to sound like a civil right. It is just protectionism by another name. It has led to job-creation overseas, where U.S. businesses expand in places to hire the workers that they can’t hire here.
Immigrants don’t take jobs; they make jobs. Immigrants start and operate businesses at a higher rate than Americans born here, and a healthy percentage of the fastest-growing businesses were founded by foreign-born people. Google is merely the best recent example; about 20% of the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants, and another 20% were founded by the children of immigrants.
The National Venture Capital Association reports that a third of venture-backed companies that went public between 2006 and 2012 had at least one immigrant founder. In 2012, those companies were valued in the market at nearly a trillion dollars.
We shouldn’t change our immigration laws to be nice to the less fortunate; we should change the laws to provide long-run benefits to Americans.
Nor should we carefully select a few of the most promising high-tech geniuses. This country also needs nurses and doctors, but it sets unreasonable hurdles for those who would transfer their professional qualifications to the U.S. Beyond professionals, the country needs builders, dishwashers, machine operators, truck drivers, child-care and elder-care workers, and farm workers.