Op-EdAppeared in U.S. News & World Report on March 23, 2012By David Park

Immigration Reform Is Key to Job Creation

David Park is the cofounder and chairman of Jobs Creators Alliance.

As America continues to look for more jobs Washington can’t seem to come up with an answer. We’ve heard solutions from policy wonks, politicians, and academics, but rarely from people who have first-hand experience actually creating jobs. The voice of the small business owner is faintly being heard, but I’m not so sure our friends on Capitol Hill are listening. There is continual talk about destructive regulations and burdensome red tape, but very little discussion over specific policies and regulations that are so burdensome and in need of reform. Well, here’s one from a job creator: immigration.

Immigration reform is key to spurring innovation and getting the economy back on track. I’m a small business owner who realizes the role legal immigrants play in creating new jobs. As founder and CEO of a boutique merchant bank, I’ve started or acquired nearly 30 small and midsize companies, creating hundreds of jobs for Americans across the country. I am also an immigrant and an example of how highly-skilled immigrants educated in the United States can drive job creation right here at home.

Employment-based immigration provides ways for highly skilled immigrants to come to the United States on either a permanent or temporary visa and contribute to our economy. I came to the United States at the age of six because my parents wanted me to have the opportunity to live the American Dream. While at that time, immigration law was by no means lax, the window of legal immigration opportunity has been closing more and more as the process gets bogged down in the bureaucratic morass. The sad truth is, America’s dysfunctional immigration law doesn’t hurt the would-be immigrants as much as it cripples our nation’s competitiveness and prospect for future prosperity and job growth.

Ironically, there is no cap placed on the number of temporary workers, as they are not eligible for citizenship. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services there are over 20 classifications in which a temporary nonimmigrant worker may enter the United States. These highly-skilled workers are usually sponsored by an employer for a specific job or have been accepted to an American university, with the expectation that they will only be in the United States on a temporary basis. After we train and educate these foreigners, we send them back to their home countries.

Meanwhile, the United States only accepts 140,000 permanent immigrants a year based on Citizenship and Immigration Services’ employment-based standards. A recent report by The Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants or their children founded more than 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies. Further, these U.S. companies employ more than 10 million people worldwide and have combined revenues of $4.2 trillion. And these are the very people we are turning our backs to.

In good economic times or bad, keeping entrepreneurs and productive workers beyond our shores and outside our borders is nonsensical. We shouldn’t be denying our nation’s economic engine the fuel of innovative talent it so desperately needs. We shouldn’t be wasting our resources by perpetuating a broken immigration system where these highly skilled workers are trained and educated in America but sent back into their home countries.

We need immigration reform that reinforces the American Dream by encouraging and enabling the best and the brightest, regardless of their nation of origin, to launch businesses right here in the United States. That’s the kind of progrowth policy that would ignite a more robust economic recovery, create jobs, and chart a course to a more prosperous future.