(This article, written by Rick Dacri, was initially published in the York County Coast Star on May 23, 2013)
Tear down those walls and open the borders. That’s right, open the borders and put out the welcome mat to all who want to come to America to work. We need the talent. I realize this may be politically wrong to say and blasphemous to suggest, particularly with an unemployment rate at 7.5%, but our country’s long-term economic viability is dependent upon a steady stream of able individuals. And talented people outside our borders are dying to come in—unfortunately in some cases, literally.
While we continuously hear that we are being overrun by illegal workers, who are streaming across our borders, taking jobs away from able bodied Americans, the evidence does not support the rhetoric. In fact, as walls are being built along our southern borders, the flow from Mexico to the U.S. has trickled to a 40 year low. But some in Washington want to make it harder for all foreigners to get in, and for those 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, they want to send them back or at least make it so difficult that they’ll leave on their own.
Now before I’m accused of taking a political side, the fact is America needs these foreign workers. Few steal our jobs or drain our resources. Most work hard, contribute to our communities, and pay taxes. Many create jobs—lots of them. Immigrants or their children founded 40% of the Fortune 500 companies. Ninety Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant. Steve Jobs and Walt Disney were children of immigrants. The founders of IBM, Clorox, Boeing, Google, McDonald’s, EBay and IBM were too. How many jobs have they created? Millions.
Every day we hear employers and even politicians lament over the skills shortage impacting our industries and economy. Schools are scrambling to fill the voids in science, technology, engineering and math. The shortage of skilled labor forces employers to outsource engineering and technology jobs overseas. Yet, many foreign workers who have these skills and education cannot either come to America to work or are forced to leave America after graduating from U.S. universities.
Our current immigration policies limit the number individuals who can work in the U.S. We restrict the number of foreign workers and students who can get the necessary H1B visa to come and work in the U.S. Why would we limit the very workers we need? Then there are those foreign students who attend our institutions of higher learning, are educated in the very disciplines we demand, who are forced to return to their native land upon graduation, and then go to work or found companies that directly compete against U.S. firms. Why aren’t we making it easy for them to stay and become U.S. citizens? Why aren’t we helping them start job producing companies on U.S. soil?
We also limit the number of seasonal workers who come to work in the tourism and agricultural industries. Over the years, hotels and inns, including those in Maine, go begging for workers. Labor shortages due to those tough immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia have impacted the ability to harvest crops resulting in significant economic losses.
Sensible immigration reform is needed. Our talent pool across the spectrum is contracting, and it is only going to get worse. The baby boomers are quickly exiting the workforce. Who is going to fill their slots?
As Maine strives to expand its economic base, we must understand that without an educated and robust talent pool, employers will not come or stay here. The same applies across the nation. The U.S. birthrate is not sufficient to meet our economic demands. Our schools are lagging in graduating the needed talent.
We need to open our borders. We need sensible immigration reform to remedy this workforce shortage. The American brand is still the best in the world. People everywhere want to live and work in America. We need to welcome them. We need them. It just makes good business and economic sense.
What do you think? Add your comments below.