Padilla Highlights Immigrants’ Vital Role in Driving Economic Growth and Competitiveness, Calls for Fixes to Outdated System
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) convened a Senate Budget Committee hearing alongside Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) titled “Unlocking America’s Potential: How Immigration Fuels Economic Growth and Our Competitive Advantage.” During the hearing, Padilla questioned Mr. Laurens van Beek, a Software Developer and Former U.S. Visa Holder; and Dr. Britta Glennon, Assistant Professor of Management, Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania and Faculty Research Fellow, National Bureau of Economic Research.
Padilla, who has now chaired six hearings on the vital role that immigrants play in our communities, began his remarks by discussing the pivotal role immigration plays in stimulating America’s economy and maintaining global competitiveness. He discussed how meaningful immigration reform could add $1 trillion dollars to our economy and bring 3.2 million new jobs to the United States over the next decade, helping fill dire workforce shortages in fields such as health care and STEM. Padilla also emphasized the importance of creating permanent protections for essential workers, noting that immigrants held nearly one in five essential jobs during the pandemic. Furthermore, he continued his push for a pathway to citizenship for long-term undocumented individuals like Dreamers and DACA recipients. He concluded his opening remarks by calling on his colleagues to come to the table to update our immigration system to provide stability for immigrants living in America and invest in the future of our economy.
Padilla opened his questioning by condemning the failure of our immigration system in forcing the children of temporary visa holders like van Beek, who had lived in the United Stated for nearly 20 years, to leave their families and homes behind. He heard from van Beek about how he aged out of status as a dependent on his parents’ visa, was denied an H1-B visa, and forced to leave his family and home in the United States, devastating his family and sending his employer scrambling to keep him on staff. Padilla discussed his bipartisan America’s CHILDREN Act, which he and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have introduced to protect the more than 250,000 Documented Dreamers — children of long-term visa holders — living in the United States.
Padilla also discussed the barriers preventing immigrants from starting companies in the United States, forcing many potential founders to move their ventures to competing countries with less restrictive immigration laws. He asked Dr. Glennon about the economic impact of these restrictions, hearing from her about how our outdated immigration policies force immigrants to form their startups in competing countries, spurring jobs, innovation, and consumption in countries like Canada rather than in America.
PADILLA: We have an idea, we have a solution here. It’s called the America’s CHILDREN Act, which I hope we’re able to pass in time to help other people in circumstances very similar to yours. So we will continue to press this legislation to address the needs of thousands of others what we call “Documented Dreamers” in this situation. Can you describe, Mr. van Beek, your experience regarding the challenges and uncertainty that your family encountered due to your immigration status, especially leading up to your self-deportation?
VAN BEEK: … The uncertainty was kind of up to the last minute almost. With my employer, the last hope being the H1-B visa lottery of 2022. We didn’t really know until about March, April that I was not selected. And with my OPT expiring in July, there was no other status that I could transition into. So it was basically then a rush to figure out how I’m going to move back to the country and where I was going to live.
PADILLA: As of 2023, nearly 45% of Fortune 500 companies including Costco, Apple, and Moderna were founded by immigrants or their children. Those are facts. But despite the widespread evidence that immigrants are significant contributors to the U.S. economy, our current immigration laws do not provide a viable visa option for them to start a new venture, leading many potential founders to move to competing countries with less outdated and restrictive immigration laws, again, causing America to fall behind. Ms. Glennon, you touched on this in your testimony. Can you just expand a little bit more? What is the economic impact of these businesses and jobs moving elsewhere? And what does that mean for the American people?
GLENNON: Yeah, thank you. So as I mentioned, in my testimony, you know, immigrants are 80% more likely to form startups. And that’s actually, despite the fact that we don’t have any pathway for them to form startups currently, right. So under something like the H1-B program, there’s no ability to form a startup under any of the other programs, short of permanent residency, there’s no way to form a startup. And so what I found in my research is that many of these constraints would be founders who had moved to the U.S., wanted to form a startup with the U.S., had to leave and go somewhere else. In my study that was Canada. And that meant that those jobs that they’re creating go to Canadians, the innovation that they are creating then goes to the Canadian economy, the consumption that is occurring goes to Canada as well.
More information about the hearing is available here.