The International Entrepreneur Rule and Innovation: Why Immigrants Help -- Not Harm -- the U.S. Job Market
President Donald Trump has prioritized revitalizing the American job market -- and in many ways, he has succeeded. The July jobs report revealed that unemployment was at 3.9 percent, continuing a nearly two-decade low, and every month of his presidency has seen job growth. But his push to eliminate the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) runs counter to his efforts to promote economic growth.
Originally published under the Obama administration, the IER is designed to help our nation retain high-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs. If an immigrant entrepreneur has received backing from investors or public grants, the rule would allow her or him to remain in the country for 30 months, with a possible extension. After delaying implementation of the rule until last December, the administration has proposed nixing it altogether, because it "lacks sufficient protections for U.S. workers and investors."
The problem with this claim is that it's simply not true.
High-skilled immigrants don't take jobs from U.S. workers. They create them, particularly in the tech industry. Run through the list of major U.S. tech companies -- Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon, Tesla and Uber -- and you'll see many of them were founded or co-founded by immigrants or their children. These companies and others like them employ 1.7 million U.S. citizens. And when compared to native-born citizens, immigrants are two times more likely to found a business. According to a 2016 study from the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants founded just over half of America's billion-dollar startups, and these companies each added an average of 760 jobs to the American economy.
Our nation's global lead in technology and economic success is thanks, in part, to bold immigrant innovators who sought to seize the opportunities our nation affords. Preventing them from staying here does nothing to strengthen the U.S. job market. If anything, it weakens it.
Moreover, it means handing over top talent to international competitors. A 2015 survey conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools found that temporary residents made up over 63 percent of first-time graduate students in math and computer science programs at U.S. universities. Gutting programs such as IER forces students to leave right after they graduate, at which point other countries will happily accept them. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and France all are bringing in this kind of foreign-born tech talent that we're willing to forfeit, even at a time when the American job market is booming.
This is not to say we shouldn't be striving to find and develop homegrown talent. But, right now, there's no way we can fill the massive skills gap our nation is facing. According to Code.org, more than 500,000 computer science jobs were open in 2017 -- but in 2015, just under 60,000 graduates held degrees in computer and information services, per data from the National Center for Education Statistics. While the U.S. workforce is growing, more states need to encourage a growing tech workforce. According to the Consumer Technology Association's (CTA) Innovation Scorecard, Minnesota, Maryland, Illinois and Vermont rank as some of the fastest-growing tech workforces. While we're in the process of reforming our education systems to focus on STEM skills, we need foreign-born innovators to close the skills gap and help keep America at the forefront of global innovation.
President Trump is right to prioritize U.S. jobs, and his efforts are paying off. For the most part, the aggressive regulatory approach of his predecessor only served to stymie business and stunt the job market. But IER is a vital part of our economic growth as a country. On behalf of more than 2,200 member companies, CTA filed comments with the Department of Homeland Security, highlighting the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs to the U.S. tech economy. President Trump and Congress should work together to find a way to keep these international innovators here in America.
Like any good business leader, the president prides himself on finding "the best people." The good news is that we already have many of them -- we just need to find a way to keep them.