Crow, Katko Introduce the Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act of 2021

June 25, 2021
Press Release

Bipartisan Legislation Would Eliminate Barriers to Employment for Immigrants and Refugees

WASHINGTON - Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) today joined Rep. John Katko (R-NY) to introduce the Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act of 2021. The bipartisan legislation would help eliminate barriers to employment facing immigrants and refugees across the country. 

For many reasons, including language barriers, credential recognition difficulties, and lack of professional networks and assistance, foreign-educated immigrants and refugees with professional degrees are often unemployed or underemployed. This is commonly referred to as “brain waste,” and can cost states like Colorado billions of dollars per year in lost individual earnings and tax revenue. 

In 2016, researchers at the Migration Policy Institute found that nearly 2 million immigrants with college degrees in the U.S. were relegated to low-wage jobs or were unable to find work. This is particularly relevant in the health care sector. In 2020, the Migration Policy Institute estimated that more than a third of the 11,000 immigrants in Colorado with health-related undergraduate degrees were either unemployed or working low-wage jobs that do not match their skill set. 

“Colorado is home to tens of thousands of  immigrants and refugees who make our state stronger and more vibrant,” said Rep. Jason Crow. “Many in our community have skills and professional credentials they can’t use because of regulatory hurdles. These barriers prevent many from making a good living for their families, contributing fully to our economy, and reaching their full potential. I’m proud to help introduce common-sense legislation to identify and help eliminate barriers that prevent our immigrants and refugees from reaching their full potential.” 

"New Americans are vital to our communities, economy, and shared prosperity. The Improving Opportunities for New Americans bill is essential to recognizing and addressing the barriers these individuals face as they pursue their dreams and seek to contribute to their communities. It creates opportunities for newcomers and the communities that welcome them to realize their full economic potential,” said Jennifer Wilson, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee in Denver.

“Our efforts to fight COVID-19 and rebuild the economy depend on our ability to fully leverage the talent and training of all workers. The Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act is a critical step toward ensuring that under- and unemployed immigrants and refugees who hold international credentials can rejoin their fields and contribute their education and experience to the nation’s recovery. Removing the barriers that prevent the economic mobility of these workers advances economic opportunity for all,” said The International Rescue Committee, World Education Services, National Skills Coalition, New American Economy, Church World Service, and Upwardly Global in a joint statement.

Specifically, the legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to conduct an interagency study on factors that impact U.S. employment opportunities for immigrants and refugees with professional credentials from other countries.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2019, nearly 10 percent of Colorado’s population was born outside of the U.S, more than 546,000 individuals.