Immigration Policy as a Jobs Program

Immigration policy is more than just deciding deportation policies.

Donald Trump claims that his goal is to bring jobs and prosperity back to hardworking Americans. Yet he has consistently undermined the most entrepreneurial group of individuals in America: immigrants. Immigrants are more likely to start companies than native-born Americans, and are responsible for some of the most successful American companies in history.

Foreign-born entrepreneurs can create new firms, and new firms drive job growth in the U.S., but they often do not have a pathway to start their businesses in America.

This is why it’s important to call attention to a potential policy that would help trigger job growth: a start-up visa. It would recruit international entrepreneurs and funnel them into the U.S., expanding job growth for Americans at every skill level.

Twelve other nations — including Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Korea, Germany, Singapore — use their own startup visa to expand entrepreneurship and fuel their economies. Just last month, France added a start-up visa to help facilitate entrepreneurship and investment in their economy.

Incredibly, despite our rich entrepreneurial culture and innovation hubs in San Francisco, New York, and Austin, the U.S. lacks a similar option for international entrepreneurs, and our economy is suffering as a result.

A startup visa provides a reliable pathway for the best and brightest from around the globe to start the next Google, Uber, or Tesla in Boston or Chicago. Lacking that option encourages entrepreneurs to seek opportunity elsewhere, and hinders America’s ability to attract and retain talent in a globalized economy.

Moreover, while other nations benefit from the extension of legal migration opportunities for entrepreneurs, the impact in the U.S. could be even larger considering the huge network of dynamic city centers home to business creation.

The expected economic benefits of a startup visa are intriguing. The Kauffman Foundation finds that launching a startup visa would create 1.6 million new jobs over the next 10 years.

Enrico Moretti of the University of California at Berkeley found that the addition of high-tech jobs leads to the creation of additional service jobs. Immigrant entrepreneurs can help create middle-class jobs and grow the economy.

If the president really is set on bringing jobs to areas most hard-hit by economic downfalls, implementing immigration programs that entice start-up visa holders to cities, counties, or states with high unemployment rates could help Americans who have yet to fully recover from the Great Recession and globalization.

At some level this is already happening. The Welcome Economic Global Network is comprised of more than twenty regional economic development initiatives across the Midwest working to tap into the economic development opportunities created by immigrants. Federal support for such a program would help it go a long way — and it is never too late to signal to job creators that we are ready to welcome their companies.

We should have a simple immigration pathway that leverages 21st century global competition for high-skilled labor. A startup visa is a bipartisan idea, supported by economists, that could help carry out the public policy goals Trump espouses. After all, entrepreneurs are going to create jobs somewhere, so why not encourage them to do so in the U.S.?

According to Trump, immigration programs hurt the American worker. He refuses to recognize that immigrants make it possible for firms to grow, expand, and hire American workers. Immigration and job growth are not competing goals, but are mutually reinforcing.

Donald Trump should see immigration policy as more than deportation and enforcement — he should see it as economic strategy. Immigration is vital to America’s economy, and immigrants can help create the jobs that native born Americans — especially those in hard hit areas — need right now.

Launching a startup visa would help bring jobs to those who need it, and by ignoring this policy, Trump is overlooking an opportunity to actually make a positive difference.


Originally published at niskanencenter.org on February 21, 2017.

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