Equitable policies for immigrants and English learners are a key driver of economic growth

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, August 21, 2020

When National Skills Coalition published The Roadmap for Racial Equity last year, the economic landscape looked quite different. Now, as the United States faces the continuing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession, NSC is releasing an excerpt of the original report with a more specific focus: The Roadmap for Racial Equity, Special Education: Immigrants and English Learners.

Immigrants comprise one in six American workers, and English learners make up one in ten workers. Most immigrants are non-White, and this trend is expected to continue well into the future, with Asian and Latinx immigrants making up the largest shares of new Americans. English learners are similarly likely to be people of color.

As the pandemic has once again demonstrated, workers of color are disproportionately vulnerable to layoffs and pay cuts.

Expanding career pathways for people of color and supporting their advancement along these pathways are necessary precursors to achieving positive economic outcomes. This includes ensuring that workers recently displaced because of the pandemic have equitable opportunities to build their skills and prepare for in-demand jobs as the US labor market continues to adjust to a post-pandemic reality.

The need for public policy solutions

The ethnic and racial diversity of the residents of the United States is one of our country’s unique strengths. However, Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Native, and certain Asian American workers face wide racial inequities in educational attainment, employment, and income. A significant percentage of these individuals are also immigrants or English learners.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn renewed attention to these inequities, they existed long before the pandemic. The US has fueled these disparities through decades of intentional, structurally racist policies. As long as these inequities exist, our country is undercutting its own economic competitiveness: Racial workforce diversity is a key driver of America’s economic growth, as it is one of the most important predictors of business sales revenue, customer numbers, and profitability.

Because public policy decisions have played a key role in forming racial inequities, policies must also be an integral part of the solution. Now is the time to adjust workforce policies and craft new ones to ensure that every person in our country has a fair shot at achieving economic stability and success.

Key recommendations for policy change

The policy solutions highlighted in the Roadmap: Special Edition cover the following topic areas:

  • Education and workforce data systems
  • Policy and program infrastructure and technical assistance
  • Upskilling for workers with foundational skills needs, including vocational and technical English and digital literacy
  • Tuition equity and other financial aid for Dreamers and others not covered by existing financial aid programs
  • Permanent protection and a skills-based path to citizenship for Dreamers

For details on each of the recommendations, refer to the new publication.