Our economy is very dependent on foreign labor. Indeed, most of our workforce growth since 1990 has come from immigration, a trend that is expected to continue for at least the next 20 years. How these workers are employed, therefore, will have important implications for American economic health, as well as for national unity and social stability.

America’s employment-based immigration system is broken. The programs for admitting foreign workers for temporary and permanent jobs are rigid, cumbersome, and inefficient; do too little to protect the wages and working conditions of workers (foreign or domestic); do not respond very well to employers’ needs; and give almost no attention to adapting the number and characteristics of foreign workers to domestic labor shortages. The United States could benefit enormously from an immigration system that is more responsive to broader economic conditions.



Refugees as Employees: Good Retention, Strong Recruitment

Employers that hire refugees see positive outcomes for their businesses, according to a report released today by the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Tent Partnership for Refugees. The study, based on over 100 interviews in four regions of the country, finds that when employers hire refugees they see lower turnover rates among refugees, and widen their pool of potential employees. In addition, many see overall improvements in the company, with their managers becoming more versatile as they adjust to working with a more diverse workforce.

These findings of positive outcomes in the workplace seem at odds with recent restrictions on the number of refugees admitted to the country. Despite record numbers of refugees around the world, the Trump Administration is currently on target to let in the lowest number of refugees resettled in recent decades.

Adding Citizens a Powerful Way to Boost Georgia Communities

States and cities nationwide are discovering they can strengthen their local economies and boost tax revenues by encouraging immigrants legally in the country on a permanent basis to become citizens. About 9 million people nationwide live in the country as lawful permanent residents and are eligible to become naturalized citizens, including an estimated 195,000 in Georgia. But fewer than 10 percent each year complete the process to become citizens of the United States, in part because the process is lengthy, complex and costly. A concerted effort by Georgia lawmakers and community leaders to encourage lawful permanent residents to become citizens and smooth their path could add up to $639 million in annual earnings to the state’s economy and as much as $62 million a year in state and local tax revenue.

Support Adult English Language Education to Invest in Future

One in five Georgia children lives with at least one immigrant parent and nearly half of immigrants in Georgia struggle to speak English. When parents struggle to speak English, it not only hurts their ability to bring home higher pay to support their families, it also limits their involvement in their children’s education. This reduces the likelihood their children will succeed in school and one day reach their potential in the workforce.

More than 509,000 Georgia children have immigrant parents and 45 percent of immigrants in Georgia don’t speak English well. Yet Georgia’s English language programs enrolled only about 12,000 adults in 2016. Georgia is also one of just two states that ban undocumented immigrants from basic literacy and other adult education programs. This ban hurts children, including U.S. citizens, by making English language education inaccessible for their parents.

It is in the best interest of the state for lawmakers to improve the educational opportunities for immigrants because Georgia is likely to continue to diversify and attract newcomers from many different countries. The country’s immigrant population is projected to increase at double the rate of the U.S.-born population over the next five years. Georgia’s workforce will likely add more immigrants as the state continues to capture a large share of the nation’s population growth. Putting up unusual roadblocks to literacy and training programs and underfunding English language education undermines Georgia’s future workforce and its ability to compete.