The Washington Post is saying that college educated immigrants (from non-European countries) are having trouble finding work... and the paper is not mentioning all the DREAMers who have degrees that cannot work in their fields. If you add the DREAMers to the equation, the numbers are really high.--
College-Educated Immigrants Struggle to Find Work
By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 22, 2008; 10:36 AM
One out of every five college-educated immigrants in the United States is either unemployed or working in an unskilled job such as a dishwasher, fast food restaurant cashier or security guard, depriving the U.S. economy of the full potential of more than 1.3 million foreign-born workers, according to a study released today.
The plight of such immigrants is familiar to anyone who has gotten a ride from a Washington taxi driver with an engineering degree from Ethiopia or had their car parked by a garage attendant who used to practice law in El Salvador. However, the report by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute is the first to quantify the extent of the problem.
"This shows that immigrant brain waste is a reality -- that the challenge of integration is not restricted to unskilled workers, who have been the focus until now, and that a very high share of highly skilled immigrants are not progressing rapidly in the economy," said researcher Michael Fix, who co-authored the study with Jeanne Batalova.
Of particular concern, added Fix, was the finding that highly educated Latin American and African immigrants fare far worse than Europeans or Asians. Nearly half of recently arrived college-educated Latin Americans hold unskilled jobs. So do more than one-third of those who have been in the country for more than 10 years and have presumably had more time to learn English, make professional contacts and pass U.S. professional certification exams. And the lag persists even when only immigrants who are in the country legally are considered.
By contrast, well-educated European immigrants' employment patterns are virtually indistinguishable from their U.S.-born counterparts regardless of how long they have lived in the United States. Asian immigrants educated abroad do only slightly worse.
Though African immigrants are more likely to hold highly skilled jobs than Latin Americans, they have the highest unemployment rates of all foreign-born groups. During the 2005-2006 period, 6 percent of recently arrived, college-educated Africans and 4.1 percent of Africans with a U.S. degree were unemployed, compared with 2.6 percent of U.S.-born college graduates.
Fix said it's possible that discrimination against Latinos and Africans is a factor but that much of the gap can be explained by the differing language skills and immigration circumstances common to immigrants from each region.
For instance, highly skilled immigrants who can speak only limited English are twice as likely to work in an unskilled job as those who are proficient in English. And 44 percent of Latin Americans educated at foreign colleges speak English poorly or not at all compared with 32 percent of Europeans and 23 percent of Asians.
College-educated Africans have the best language skills of any group: Only 15 percent speak English poorly or not at all. But it appears that this benefit is swamped by a different disadvantage: Only 10 percent of the Africans are sponsored for entry by employers. Instead 42 percent are sponsored by family members and nearly a third come in through a government lottery program. And immigrants entering on such visas often lack the professional networks needed to find a job in their field.
This is also a challenge for college-educated Latin Americans, who are the least likely to be sponsored by employers -- with only 6 percent receiving such visas compared with 16 percent of Europeans and 35 percent of Asians.
"Studies show that up to 80 percent of Americans found their current job through networks formed during their university years or previous jobs," said Jane Leu, executive director of Upwardly Global, a nonprofit organization with offices in New York, San Francisco and Chicago that helps highly educated immigrants find work. "These immigrants just don't have that network -- they can't get introduced to companies."
Cultural barriers also play a role, said Leu, whose group links applicants with mentors in their field and offers interview training and help with resume preparation. Foreign-born job seekers often have difficulty engaging in the "self-promotion" and personal revelation required in many American job interviews, said Leu.
"A typical interview question is, 'Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you learned from it,' " she said. "That's not a question asked in other countries. You don't talk about mistakes."
Well-educated refugees often face the highest hurdles because they lack even the cushion of family support and have little time to prepare for their move to the United States or look for work once they're arrived.
Vu Dang, director of the International Rescue Committee's Washington area refugee resettlement office, said this obstacle has proved particularly vexing to Iraqi refugees arriving in the region over the last several months. The refugees -- who include physicians, dentists, architects and accountants and who have often risked their lives to work with the U.S. military -- receive a three-month stipend from the U.S. government, at best. Many are given enough to cover expenses for one month.
"They come from successful backgrounds overseas and they have very high expectations about finding a similar job in the United States," said Dang. "So I and my staff members are the ones who have to acclimatize them to the reality that whatever they were in their home country is irrelevant -- they need to find a job right away just to pay their rent and those kind of jobs are going to be jobs in hotels and restaurants that pay a little bit over minimum wage."
While some of the difficulties faced by highly educated immigrants are inevitable, Fix and others suggest that the federal and state governments could do more to ease the way by providing more assistance with English classes, offering loans to offset the cost of studying for professional certification exams, and working to harmonize assessment systems so that foreigners' academic and professional credentials can be more easily recognized when appropriate.
"Unlike many issues in public policy this is a fairly easy problem to remedy," he said. And the benefits to the United States could be enormous. "We're essentially trying to take advantage of the human capacity financed by other countries."