Un-utilized Resources- America’s Underemployed Immigrant Population

Picture this: 

A New York City cab driver originally from Mali returns home after a day of driving customers around the city.  When he enters his Harlem apartment, he sigh’s as he passes by two dusty plaques hanging on his wall. The two dusty plaques are his college degrees- a B.A. in Political Science, and a M.S. in International Affairs.

The cab driver represents a nationwide phenomena of underemployed immigrants.  In a feature presented by The New School titled ‘Brain Waste’- Underutilizing Immigrant Talent, “more than 1.3 million college-educated immigrants in the U.S. are unemployed or underemployed” (provided by the Migration Policy Institute) The majority of them coming “from Latin America and Africa.”  Underemployed meaning that immigrants are holding jobs that do not do justice to the level of education and skills acquired back home.

Why are they not getting jobs?

There are a number of factors.  The major one being that foreign degrees tend to be incompatible with degrees from U.S. institutions.  The Malian cab driver mentioned earlier finds that his M.S. in International affairs does not match the requirements of an American M.S. in the same subject.

Other obstacles include language barriers, lack of access to network and professional resources, and a tendency of employers being unwilling to support foreign nationals (also from The New School ‘Brain Waste’ feature).

So why is this important?

There is already a current 9.1% unemployment rate.  If college educated immigrants are underemployed too, then there is a vast source of economic capital not being tapped into.  Even the amount of unemployed immigrants in New York State alone can surely alleviate some part of the nation’s recession prone economy.

Here is where the opportunity for debate is offered 

Is this a valid point to make?  American college graduates need to be accounted for.  “Immigrant or not, a college degree from a U.S. institution does not guarantee work that suits a person’s preference and credentials.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that close to eight percent of Americans with a partial college or associate’s degree are unemployed.” (‘Brain Waste’)

There are more than enough anti-immigration policies floating around to make this post seem even more insignificant.  Not to mention the concern that a good portion of underemployed immigrants could very well be here illegally.

Yet the necessity of more resources to make ‘brain wasted’ immigrants more attractive to employers is too often pushed to the side.

Potential consequences

The video was presented by RT America, a Russian based news channel thats in English.  One statement in particular is enough to cause alarm: “In the process, the skilled are going back home.”  Meaning that because immigrants cannot find jobs here, all of their skills, all of that capital, leaves the country. The American Dream cut short.

Oulimata Ba