Coalition comments on the Biden Administration’s proposed immigration legislation

February 1, 2021Plainsboro, New Jersey— Representing major business organizations in the State of New Jersey, the New Jersey Business Immigration Coalition commends the new Biden administration for its intention to work together with members of Congress to achieve effective and bipartisan immigration policy reform. The Coalition views lawful immigration as a powerful tool for economic recovery and growth, and for this reason, we would like to share our position on various issues, for the benefit of the New Jersey Congressional delegation, the Administration, other members of Congress, and the public at large.

Although the pandemic has shut down borders and slowed global migration, the economic, political, and environmental forces that propelled migration prior to the pandemic will likely regain their power. At the same time, worker shortages in key industries and below-replacement birth rates in developed countries like the U.S. will likely create strong demand for immigrant labor.  Comprising almost one-third of all essential workers in New Jersey, immigrants have already proven their worth in vital sectors of the economy, such as health care, agriculture, and food services. Through their entrepreneurial and scientific skill, they have also played a major role as innovators and job creators.

Although the Biden proposal, known as the Citizenship Act of 2021, will likely undergo revisions during the legislative process, the Coalition has identified key provisions of the Act that we believe should enjoy bipartisan support and should be enacted:

  • The Coalition sees immigration as a great asset to the economy, but one that must be managed carefully to avoid an oversupply or undersupply of workers. For this reason, we applaud the intention of the administration to give the Department of Homeland Security the “authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions.” In order to avoid abuse of this authority, we would urge the creation of an independent commission of economists and other experts to advise the government on admission levels for specific sectors of the economy based on unemployment levels and other factors.
  • We believe that a reformed immigration system should create greater opportunities for people to immigrate to the United States for employment purposes. The United States lags behind other advanced economies in the attention it pays to the education and skill levels of prospective immigrants. According to New American Economy, only about 14 percent of all U.S. green cards are given for economic reasons, compared to more than 60 percent in Canada and Australia. Although family ties will always remain an important consideration in our immigration system, the United States should increase the number of green cards available for those with skills in short supply in the U.S. economy.
  • The Coalition commends the legalization provisions of the Biden proposal. We believe that it is in the best interest of the American people to regularize the status of law-abiding residents of the United States, especially those with long-term ties to the country. Legalization enables people to come out of the shadows, realize their full potential, and become contributing members of society. A rapid path to legal status and citizenship is especially appropriate for DACA-eligible immigrants and TPS recipients.
  • We also support the provisions designed to maintain the flow of international students and scholars to U.S. colleges and universities – a flow which diminished by 8 percent in 2019-2020, as other countries have begun to aggressively compete with the U.S. for a larger share of this talent pool. Maintaining our preeminence as a destination for international students is vital to retaining our position of world leadership in science and technology. More than 50 percent of international students have been in STEM fields. With the reforms contained in the new legislation, the most talented students will again feel welcome in the United States and will be able to use the OPT and H-1B programs as pathways to lawful permanent residence.

The Coalition believes that the introduction of the Citizenship Act of 2021 is a constructive first step in the long delayed effort to achieve immigration reform. As the debate on immigration reform continues in Congress and in the country as a whole, the NJ Business Immigration Coalition will be releasing additional comments and recommendations.  We urge members of the New Jersey Congressional delegation to support the above highlighted provisions of the proposed bill.