IMPRINT: Immigrant Professional Integration

Recent immigrants arrive with in-demand skills according to new data analysis

A new interactive data analysis released last month by New American Economy (NAE) provides further evidence that immigrants have the in-demand skills needed to fill labor shortages in vital sectors of the U.S. job market.

NAE’s new data infographic tool can be a helpful resource for policymakers and advocates as they work to remove employment barriers impacting immigrants and refugees with training and credentials obtained outside the U.S.

NAE analyzed the education and skills of immigrants authorized to enter the U.S. in 2017 and found thirty percent holds a bachelor’s degree and 24 percent of recent immigrants have graduate-level education. In addition, the data shows that recent immigrants often arrive with in-demand training and skills in fields such as healthcare, teaching, and engineering. According to NAE’s analysis, the top occupation for new immigrants in 2017 was postsecondary teacher or college professor, with immigrants representing approximately one out of every 11 college professors. Further, recent immigrants were almost four times more likely than the U.S.-born population to work as engineers. And nearly 18,000 had health and medicine training.

Some policymakers argue a “skills-based immigration system” would be more beneficial to the U.S. than the current system, which is predominantly family-based, on the theory that a merit-based system would ensure the U.S. industries have access to the types of workers they need. However, the data bears out that under the current immigration system, immigrants with in-demand skills are already coming to the U.S.

The public policy debate should be re-focused on how the federal government, states and localities, as well as the private sector, can support these new workers as they seek to rejoin their professions here in the U.S.

Andrew Lim, director of quantitative research at NAE, believes the data shows the need for stronger policies designed to tap the potential among immigrants already here. Lim also pointed to the data’s implications for federal immigration policy. In particular, Lim explained that the data shows that family unification and skills-based immigration are not mutually exclusive.

NAE plans to release a follow-up to this data in the coming months offering further insight into the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of recently-arrived immigrants including breakdowns by age, gender, country of origin, and state of residence. NAE’s goal is to show how immigrants are contributing to the U.S. economy at a national and local level.

Update from Massachusetts

Thanks to the leadership of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition “MIRA”, the state will create a 23-member commission including government, healthcare officials, and directly-impacted immigrants to identify strategies to help internationally-trained medical professionals work in rural and other underserved areas, including making recommendations on how to reduce unnecessary barriers to practice in occupational licensing standards. The measure was included as part of the state budget.

“We are pleased to see our commonwealth take the lead in figuring out ways to tap into the tremendous amount of talent within our immigrant and refugee communities,” said Eva Millona, MIRA’s executive director. “We look forward to the future work of the commission and making progress toward ensuring that no one faces barriers to employment simply because they obtained their training or credentials outside the U.S.”

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