It’s often said that the U.S. is a "nation of immigrants," one that was built by them. But since 9/11, immigration policy has made it more complicated for many hardworking immigrants to get here, and that's a trend that the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has noticed.
A new report, titled “Not Coming to America: Why the U.S. is falling behind in the global race for talent," is shaking the immigration debate. The document was released by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan coalition of Democratic and Republican leaders, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
It argues that America will face a slower economic recovery and greater competition from countries such as Australia, England and Canada if it does not reform its immigration laws.
The theory rings true for Gary Toebben, president and CEO of the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. Toebben says most American companies aren’t interested in finding cheap labor, but in finding diverse talent. California companies, he says, are especially craving workers in the science and technology fields, regardless of whether they’re Americans or immigrants.
“If you go up and down the halls of successful companies, you will find a diverse group of people because they understand they want the most talented folks," Toebben said. "And if they’re selling in a global world, they don’t just want people with European ancestry marketing to Latin America and Asia and Africa, and everywhere else.”
According to the report, 40 percent of current Fortune 500 companies were started by an immigrant.
If the U.S. cannot recruit globally for new entrepreneurs and investors, Toebben says, the economy will continue to lag in the global race.