A panel of business leaders, immigration law experts, and city mayors said that the United States needs to realize that immigration is a vital component in spurring American economic growth and increasing its global competitiveness.
The discussion was organized by the Partnership for a New-American Economy and held in El Paso Texas on 5 October 2011.
"Our immigration system is broken," said El Paso mayor John Cook.
"When we have demand for a half-million new workers each year, and no way to bring them in legally, it's an invitation for illegal immigration," he added.
He said that because of the immigration system many people had become illegal immigrants; Americans need to "step back and remember we are a nation built on immigration."
An immigration lawyer attending the meeting said that America's global competitiveness is at stake if the US cannot find a way to bring undocumented immigrants into the economy.
"We need to get our hands dirty and resolve it," she said.
The panel called for changes to immigration law that would give highly skilled immigrants and foreign entrepreneurs the chance to live and work in the US permanently.
"I don't see [immigration] as a dirty word," said one panel member. "I see job-creators, I see innovators, I see risk-takers, I see family values, I see hard workers, I see access to dozens of global markets where 95 percent of the world's consumers live."
Currently, only 5 percent of green cards each year go to immigrants with advanced degrees or who invest in businesses. Most green cards go to immigrants who come to the US through family sponsorship.