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Foreign Inventors Help Lead U.S. University Patents: Study

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Benjamin Campos, left, and Gerardo Torres, of Phoenix, join immigration rights protesters after the United States Supreme Court announced its decision regarding Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB1070, at the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices Monday, June 25, 2012, in Phoenix. Immigrants bring innovation with them a new study found. | AP

When President Obama announced a temporary halt to the deportation of young undocumented immigrants, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) slammed the move, arguing it would do further harm to an already weak job market. New research shows that may not be the case.

More than 75 percent of all patents awarded last year to America's top ten patent-producing universities had at least one foreign-born inventor, according to a new study conducted by the Partnership For a New American Economy (PNAE). And such innovation doesn't appear to be the product of any one nation; a total of 88 countries were represented within the 1,466 patents awarded, the study found (h/t The New York Times).

What these patents represent in the context of the overall economy matters a great deal more than any one individual patent, the report argues:

"The patents themselves represent only the beginning of how these foreign-born innovators contribute to our country’s competitiveness. In many cases, the inventors turned their work into successful startup ventures employing Americans. In many other cases, the patents were licensed out to companies, providing a valuable avenue to expand the inventors’ work."

So what do all those patents mean for U.S. job creation? Quite a lot, it turns out. For every 100 foreign-born workers educated in a STEM-related field, 262 jobs are created for native-born Americans, The Washington Post reports.

Foreign-born workers are so important to the U.S. economy that New York City Mayor and PNAE co-founder Michael Bloomberg said last year that America's current immigration policies amount to "national suicide," according to ABC News. Citing a previous PNAE report showing that 40 percent of U.S. Fortune 500 Companies were founded by either immigrants or the sons of immigrants, Bloomberg advocated for a merit-based immigration policy that would help spur economic growth:

"The reason is simple: immigrants are dreamers and risk-takers who are driven to succeed, because they know that in America, hard work and talent are rewarded like nowhere else."

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