The Chamber supports comprehensive immigration reform that promotes efficient borders and provides the business community with access to a workforce critical to its success. Immigrants represent a significant part of our population and contribute to the economy in many ways. They comprise nearly one-third of the labor force in San Diego County, contributing to about 25 percent of the region’s GDP and representing 27.8 percent of the County’s spending power.
There is also a strong tradition of immigrant entrepreneurship in this country, with half of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or the child of an immigrant. In 2016, 62,299 immigrant entrepreneurs generated $1.4 billion in business income for San Diego County. We need the exchange of people for new ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship all of which create new employment opportunities for American workers.
Enhancement of our regional and national economy can be achieved through a well-trained and plentiful workforce, and safe and efficient borders. Our economy depends on policies which provide our business community with access to a skilled labor force. These programs support skilled workers, research, and investment. Multiple studies have also shown that employing highly skilled foreign workers whose abilities and talents complement those of native-born workers actually creates new employment opportunities in the U.S. In fact, each H-1B visa leads to the creation of 1.83 American jobs.
In July 2020, an executive order suspended numerous work visas and expanded existing restrictions through the end of the year. Impacted visas include the H-1B program for skilled workers and H-4 program for family of H-1B holders; L-1 visas for executives; J-1 visas for scholars and professors; and H-2B visas used by seasonal workers, such as in the construction and hospitality industries. A recent study estimated a $7.5 billion economic impact to annual GDP and a reduction in employment and wages for U.S. workers just by eliminating the H-4 program. Furthermore, international students in California supported over 74,800 jobs and contributed $6.8 billion to the state economy in 2019 alone. The Chamber issued a statement urging for the reversal of visa suspensions and submitted a letter to the administration. The lack of a comprehensive immigration system limits the region’s economic growth and represents a potential threat to our national economy.
Also in 2020, the Supreme Court ruled against the administration’s efforts to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program, which began in 2012, provides temporary protection from deportation to qualified individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children and allows them to work and attend school. The Chamber has issued letters in support of the DACA program and urges Congress to take up legislation to make this program permanent and prevent future uncertainty for our communities and economy. Nearly 800,000 DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, are a vital part of the U.S. economy and 45,000 of them call San Diego home. Removing Dreamers from the workforce would result in more than $460 billion in lost GDP over the next decade. In contrast, new estimates show that passing legislation that creates an earned pathway to citizenship for Dreamers could add as much as $1 trillion to the national GDP over a decade.
A comprehensive immigration system will become an economic engine for the local and national economy. San Diego’s immigrant population provides a powerful economic impact in terms of spending power ($16.3 billion annually) and local taxes paid ($2.1 billion). Future growth of our economy depends on immigration policies which allow our businesses to hire skilled workers, invest in research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Our efforts towards this objective include the Chamber’s advocacy delegation trips to Washington D.C., a grassroots initiative encouraging members to submit a letter or directly contact their members of Congress, and a series of support letters and joint efforts with other state and local organizations.