USA Today Opinion: Why voters abandoned anti-immigrant Republicans: Coleman

This month, I joined residents of New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District in welcoming Andy Kim as our new congressman. Like many New Jersey voters, I supported Kim in November despite having backed his rival, Republican Tom MacArthur, in 2016. My vote for Kim was a response, in part, to MacArthur’s failure to take a clear stand on immigration issues.

As a pro-business centrist, I’d helped elect MacArthur in 2016 in the hope that he would be a voice for bipartisanship and moderation. But when it came to immigration policy, MacArthur did not use his position in Congress to drive real change. It’s true that he criticized Trump’s family separation policy and attempts to deport Dreamers. He even ran a pro-immigrant ad. But when it suited him, his campaign amplified Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, falsely insinuating that Kim wanted to abolish ICE. The fact is, even self-proclaimed moderate Republicans like MacArthur were unwilling to make a clean break with the president’s anti-immigrant messaging.

As a business owner, I know the damage anti-immigrant sentiment does to our economy. I’m president of NCI Consulting LLC, a Moorestown business that advises five of America’s top 10 pharmaceutical firms. In virtually every meeting I attend, well over half the executives and researchers present are foreign-born. These companies rely on immigrants to create life-saving medicines, but what’s more, in the last two years, Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and crackdown on skilled-worker visas have discouraged high-performing international students from applying to our universities, prevented companies and hospitals from securing the employees they need, and scared job-creating investments away from our communities.

In Riverside, Burlington County, Main Street businesses faced a similar reality. After passing a law against employing or housing undocumented immigrants, the town saw its economy suffer so much that it ultimately reversed the law. Riverside realized what so many of us already know: Immigrants are vital to our economy. New Jersey’s 3rd District has more than 2,000 immigrant-owned businesses, according to New American Economy, and our foreign-born residents pay $787.7 million in taxes, funding vital public services. Statewide, more than 53,000 young Dreamers are poised to become the workers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, unless Trump deports them first.

These people are our neighbors and friends. We want to see them treated with respect. If MacArthur genuinely felt the same way, then he would have publicly reprimanded the New Jersey Republican State Committee when it published anti-Kim fliers that many people — myself included — considered racist. Instead, MacArthur brushed off our concerns and accused Kim himself of playing the race card.

Kim, by contrast, is more optimistic. He talks about his father, a Korean orphan who became a New Jersey cancer researcher, and his mother, a nurse who’s helped thousands of patients. He explains how they inspired him to a life of public service. And he talks about making the American dream accessible to everyone, including Dreamers who want nothing more than a chance to build a life here.

Read the full opinion piece at usatoday.com.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…