Despite bipartisan consensus in favor of retaining foreign students studying at U.S. universities to make America economically competitive, Congress continues to disagree over the details. Over the past couple of years, we have seen introduced a panoply of cleverly-named legislative proposals to create a green card for foreign students receiving graduate degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields can work in the United States immediately post-graduation. Yet, some fear that an accelerated inflow of foreign workers may depress wages and crowd out opportunities for Americans. Very soon, the American public will see some version of these proposals in a much-anticipated comprehensive immigration reform bill.
The United States is on the threshold of comprehensive immigration reform. Between the president and the coalition in the Senate, it looks likely it will pass, which means that within a few years we shall have 11 million new Americans with full voting rights. What will their emergence from the shadows do to our economy? And, perhaps more importantly, what will it do to our politics? Who stands to gain from this enormous influx of new blood into our democratic system?
With bipartisan momentum mounting for comprehensive immigration reform, cautious optimism has emerged that 2013 will be the year for action. Most Americans agree that our immigration system is flawed, but there remains a lack of understanding about the real effects that new immigrants have on wages, jobs, budgets, and the U.S. economy in general. Two recent Hamilton Project papers provide important economic context for the issue and a potential path forward.