US immigration policies may cause dearth of talent: Study

Updated: Mar 12, 2011, 21:51 PM IST

Houston: The US is at a risk of falling behind in the global race for talent due to Washington`s immigration policies that have caused slowdown in the entry of highly-skilled foreign workers, a study here said.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas which released its 2010 yearly report said the US needs highly-skilled foreign-born workers, who actually contribute more to the American economy than take away, but strict numerical caps on employment-based visas have caused the slowdown in the entry of highly-skilled migrants.

According to the latest statistics, immigrants with more than a high school education contributed USD 105,000 more in taxes than they used in public services, while lower-skilled migrants actually cost USD 89,000 more than they contributed in taxes during their lifetime.

The report titled "From Brawn to Brains" was co-written with economics professor Madeline Zavodny.

In the report, highly-skilled migrant workers in technical fields have been pointed out as complementary rather than adversarial to native US workers.

This group also tends to outpace their US-born counterparts in "patent activity" more than two to one.

The authors also said data shows that these workers` earnings usually offset the losses incurred by lower-educated workers in the US.

Fed senior economists Pia Orrenius and Agnes Scott College economics professor Madeline Zavodny, however, pointed out that too much focus by Washington on illegal immigration causes federal authorities to miss that the legal system of immigration needs reform as well.

The two pointed out that piecemeal fixes have turned current law into a web of outmoded, contradictory and inefficient quotas, rules and regulations.

The authors cited examples in highly technical fields in which immigrants complement native-born workers by going into expanding fields where locals cannot keep up.

These include the securing of patents, which migrants got at more than a two-to-one rate than native-born Americans.

The authors added that 45 percent of medical scientists and 37 percent of computer programmers are immigrants.

The last permanent increase in legal immigration was in 1990.

Orrenius and Zavodny blamed the lack of change in the last 20 years for the 1 million skilled workers still waiting for an employment-based green card from the government.

Because of this situation, some have given up waiting or applying, while relatives of US citizens and other legal residents or even refugees find it easier to acquire green cards.