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May 2014: Issue 2.8   
In this Issue: 
High-Skilled Immigrants

DHS Announces Proposals to Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Immigrants
May 6, 2014
DHS Press Release
Read More Here > >
Graduation is Bittersweet for Immigrants at American Universities
Matthew La Corte 
May 14, 2014

Los Angeles, CA
December 14th-16th, 2014
National Immigrant Integration Conference


Milan, Italy

November 3rd-7th, 2014

19th Metropolis International Immigration Conference

Berlin, Germany
June 4th-6th, 2014
An Agenda For Shared Prosperity Conference

Washington D.C.
July 7th-10th, 2014
U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services: National Migration Conference


High-Skilled Immigrants

On Not Wasting Immigrant Capacity:


Not to pick on Cleveland, but 15,300 people leave every year. The population has slid from almost one million to 325,000. A recent risk assessment concludes that it might even lose half the current population. Richard Herman writes in the Plain Dealer: "The city needs the fresh optimism and pluck of new immigrants." 


Urban planning needs an immigrant attraction plan. Herman speaks for all business centers. The Boston Redevelopment Authority recently presented a paper that suggests that for every new visa holder who comes to work in Boston, 3 or more jobs are created!  In the face of a scarcity mentality ("they will take our jobs") there comes a new voice that suggests every immigrant builds community, increases consumer spending and is often responsible for generating new jobs. Boston welcomes foreign born leadership and they are visible at the head of the city's institutions of higher education, culture and business.


But a major additional concern has been a focus of British and American researchers who have documented the underemployment of immigrants. When I'm in a taxi I take it as a research opportunity to ask drivers what they did before migrating to the US. "I was an engineer." "I taught biology." One refugee acquaintance had 20 years as an orthopedic surgeon and another as a Sarajevo psychiatrist. Both are working in vastly different jobs at a fraction of the pay and potential contribution they were making before being forced away by war.

MPI reports that "1.6 million, or 23 percent, of the nearly 7.2 million college-educated immigrants ages 25 and older in the U.S. civilian labor force are affected by brain waste. Brain waste particularly affects the foreign born who earned their bachelor's degrees abroad, with 26 percent in low-skilled jobs or unemployed."


Recognizing the economic benefits to the receiving community and the lost human capital of underemployment, what should be done?


1. States need to become proactive in opening up licenses to the foreign trained. Yes, testing and recertification are understandable but exclusion and unreasonable barriers must be identified.


2. Mapping the experience of professional immigrants is a vital way of documenting where barriers exist and what addresses those hindrances to full employment by the capable.


3. Political leadership needs to be cultivated and offered to champion the inclusion of professionals and the correction of requirements.


4. Educators and workforce development institutions need to explore new programs that speed up the reentry to the professions by those needing to meet reasonable US standards as they relocate. (And funders need to invest in facilitating these recertification endeavors).


5. Advocates for the immigrant community need to think about leadership as well as labor. The voice of professional immigrants is increased and can have quick returns as ethnic groups benefit from the doctor, dentist, and nurse who bridges health care and community needs with language skills, as well as the professionals who can support and sustain community group leadership.


To the last point, the IIL recently supported MIRA's leadership in a symposium to gather state, private sector, academic and nonprofit sector representatives in developing a Massachusetts plan. Economic measures were coupled with academic and political leadership to assess the current state of affairs and initiate a state task force to facilitate professional certification and relocation to Massachusetts. With nearly one in six state residents being foreign born, the initiative is about systemic change, fostering the leading state industries of life sciences, health care and academic research. MIRA is endeavoring to make Massachusetts the first in the nation with policy recommendations acted upon by the governor, legislature and licensing bodies.  Human need may drive the initiative with a deep compassion for the frustrations that professionals experience, but societal benefit, state competitiveness and industry needs were given primacy.


In the middle of the last century, baseball great Jackie Robinson declared that the right of every American to first-class citizenship was the most important issue of his time. His words still ring true today. As we experience the interplay of developed economies and the benefits to our nation of migration, the question of endorsing and facilitating global labor mobility to the end that no contributor to the nation is wasted or denied opportunity needs to be a shared goal. Thirty-three of the 98 U.S.-based scientists awarded Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were foreign-born[1]. While these notables create national pride, we continue policies that disregard long and successful careers with demands for years of uncompensated reeducation for today's highly skilled foreign born professionals before they can take their place in our society.


We all benefit when we are all given equal opportunity to contribute to our shared life.


Westy Egmont, Director 

BCGSSW Immigrant Integration Lab


[1] (Data compiled by the Vilcek Foundation.) 

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians  


Opening its doors in 2003, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians connects newly arrived individuals from around the world with the economic opportunities that they need to succeed. The Welcoming Center works diligently to assist immigrants in the state, both through direct services and by raising awareness about the positive impact that immigrants have on the economy. Its primary aim is to connect Pennsylvania employers with legal, work-authorized immigrant jobseekers and to raise the region's international profile by attracting workers and businesses from around the world. Since its inception, the Welcoming Center has served over 10,000 immigrants from 140 countries worldwide. Welcoming Center jobseekers come from a wide range of professional backgrounds such as accountants, doctors and teachers (to name a few) who were hired by 75 different companies in industries such as healthcare, warehousing, manufacturing, retail and hospitality. Moreover, the organization has long provided training to help jobseekers learn about American business culture and prepare themselves for work - whether training for a new career path, rebuilding a career or starting a new business.


As a part of its mission to connect newly-arrived individuals to economic opportunities, the Welcoming Center has been instrumental in helping create strategic relationships across a broad-based coalition of ethnic community-based organizations, immigrant service providers and corporate, government, union and foundation leaders in the greater Philadelphia region. The Welcoming Center offers a gamut of services from interviewing tips to legal advice on starting a business to connecting jobseekers to ESL classes that are taught within the communities they live. At the crux of the Welcoming Center is the belief that immigrants are an invaluable part in both invigorating and sustaining a prosperous economy, a vibrant cultural scene and a democratic society.  

Read more about The Welcoming Center > >




Do young firms owned by recent immigrants outperform other young firms?

Neville, François ; Orser, Barbara ; Riding, Allan ; Jung, Owen

Journal of Business Venturing, 2014, Vol.29(1), pp.55-71 

This study uses 2004-2008 taxation data from Canadian businesses owners to compare the performance of immigrant owned business with the performance of businesses owned by Canadian nationals. All of the businesses studied were new, having begun trading between 2000 and 2004. The data indicates that immigrant owned export firms outperformed their equally new native firms, regardless of their involvement in export. This trend only held true for immigrant owned export businesses. Immigrant owned firms which did not export clearly underperformed when compared to their native counterparts. The authors suggest that immigrants, with their connections to wider international networks, have a distinct advantage over non-immigrants when it comes to export firms. However, not all immigrants are able to use such connections to their advantage. The implications of these findings as well as other trends and policies are discussed. 

Read More Here > >


This article explores the intersection of an immigrants skill level (pre-migration human capital) host country reception conditions, neighborhood composition and post-migration investments. The authors draw upon previous research, which indicates that immigrants who gain the majority of their education and work experience in their country of origin hold lower paying, lower status jobs than those who gain education and experience in their host country. Contrary to their initial assumptions, the researchers conclude that the level and portability of credentials acquired before migration have an important effect on the economic outcome of immigrants. Results also indicate that residing in co-ethnic neighborhoods hurts an immigrants likelihood of finding employment. Finally, researchers state that investment in host country language acquisition helps facilitate the transfer of credentials earned abroad and increases an immigrants employability and integration prospects. 

Read More Here > >

Do Better Pre-Migration Skills Accelerate Immigrants' Wage Assimilation?

Hirsch, Boris ; Jahn, Elke J. ; Toomet, Ott ; Hochfellner, Daniela

Labour Economics

This paper looks at the wage assimilation of ethnic Germans migrating from countries in Eastern Europe to Germany. Using administrative data, researchers estimate a migrants potential wage in Germany at the time of their migration. Migrants with greater pre-migration credentials and country specific skills are estimated to have a higher potential wage. The study indicates that indeed, those who migrate with a higher skill level reach wage assimilation at a much faster rate than lower skilled immigrants. 

Freelancing eagles: Interpretation as a transient career strategy for   skilled migrants
Burcu Akan Ellis
Journal of Management Development, Vol. 32, No. 2, (2013) pp. 152-165
This paper assesses the transient interpretation jobs play in the career development of skilled migrants.  Based on interviews and correspondence with ethnic Albanians in the USA and Britain, it analyzes the bonding and bridging effects of transient careers.  Interpretation jobs enable highly-skilled immigrants to initially sustain themselves abroad while adjusting to the host country.  The social capital gained exceeds the economic benefits, acquiring social and cultural networks through jobs and passing this "know how" to their communities.

Immigrants as a Potential Source of Growth for New England's Highly Skilled Workforce

Tara Watson, Visiting Scholar (Williams College)

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

In recent decades, growth in New England's college-educated workforce has lagged behind that in the nation as a whole. Attraction and retention of college graduates, especially those trained in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields is a policy priority. This brief analyzes the region's attraction and retention of foreign-born college graduates, examining two groups of immigrants: those arriving in the United States between the ages of 16 and 20, and those arriving in the United States between the ages of 21 and 29. The author finds that the foreign-born make up a substantial fraction of young college graduates in New England and that they are more likely to have studied a STEM field in college and have earned an advanced de­gree. The brief concludes with a survey of policy options to encourage retention of this population.




Wanted and Welcome?: Policies for Highly Skilled Immigrants in Comparative Perspective (Immigrants and Minorities, Politics and Policy)

Triadafilos Triadafilopoulos (April 12, 2013)

This book considers the origins, performance and diffusion of national immigration policies targeting highly skilled immigrants. Unlike asylum seekers and immigrants admitted under family reunification streams, highly skilled immigrants are typically cast as "wanted and welcome" as a consequence of their potential economic contribution to the receiving society and putative assimilability. Testing the degree to which this assumption holds is the principle aim of this book. In contrast to publications which see highly skilled immigration as a functional response to labor market needs, the book probes the political and sociological dimensions of policy, drawing on contributions from an international group of established and new scholars from the fields of history, law, political science, sociology and public policy. 


Immigrant, Inc: Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (and how they will save the American worker)

Richard T. Herman, Robert L. Smith (2009)

"Richard Herman and Robert Smith paint a compelling and accurate portrait of the powerful role immigrants play in our economy, and remind us that new people, ideas, and entrepreneurial energy is the American Dream story. Required reading for all policy makers and practitioners working to help America keep its competitive edge in the 21st century."

-John Austin, senior fellow, The Brookings Institution, director, Great Lakes Economic Initiative


Brain Drain and Brain Gain: The Global Competition to Attract High-Skilled Migrants

Tito Boeri, Herbert Brucker, Frederic Doquier, Hillel Rapoport (2012): Oxford University Press

The worldwide race to attract talents is getting tougher. The US has been leading the race, with its ability to attract PhD candidates and graduates not only from emerging countries, but also from the European Union. However, a growing number of countries have adopted immigration policies specifically aimed at selecting and attracting skilled workers. This book describes the global competition to attract talents. It focuses in particular on two phenomena: the brain gain and brain drain associated with high-skilled migration. 


Achieving Anew: How New Immigrants Do in American Schools, Jobs, and Neighborhoods

Michael J. White and Jennifer Glick (2010): Russell Sage Foundation Publications

"Achieving Anew offers a longitudinal perspective on examining how well immigrants adapt to schools, labor markets, and residential communities in multiethnic urban America. Michael White and Jennifer Glick challenge the time-honored wisdom of assimilation and meticulously attend to the intersection of race, class, time, and space in determining upward socioeconomic mobility of contemporary immigrants."

-Min Zhou, professor of sociology, UCLA 

Brain Waste in the Workforce: Select U.S. and State Characteristics of College-Educated Native-Born and Immigrant Adults

Margie McHugh, Jeanne Batalova and Madeleine Morawski

Migration Policy Institute offers a series of fact sheets that assesses the underutilization of highly-skilled and college-educated immigrants in the US. The study focuses on 12 key states such as California and Massachusetts.      
EDITORS:  E. Broderick, V. Corbera, W. Egmont, C. Goldstein-Walsh, J. Nomeland, and A. Young