Congress: Act on immigration

Here’s a riddle for you. What do Rand Paul, Grover Norquist, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter have in common? These prominent Americans from both sides of the political aisle all want Washington to do something about the immigration crisis.

For years, America’s immigration policy has been in limbo. Those who violate our laws and cross our borders are not prosecuted; children who have been brought here illegally through no fault of their own and are being educated in our schools are unsure what their future holds; businesses cannot fill skilled positions for growth; and local and state governments are stuck passing laws unsure of what the federal government may do.

It’s holding back economic opportunity and hurting the competitiveness of American businesses.

Studies have demonstrated that substantive reform could generate more than 10,800 Virginia jobs and add more than $950 million for the commonwealth’s economy by 2020.

Immigrants already own 17.5 percent of all businesses in Virginia; more than 40 percent of our country’s Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants and their children. Steve Jobs was a child of an immigrant from Syria. Walt Disney was the child of a Canadian immigrant. The founders of Oracle (Russia and Iran), IBM (Germany), Clorox (Ireland), Boeing (Germany), 3M (Canada), and Home Depot (Russia) were all children of immigrants.

Because of the cap on H-1B visas, companies are unable to hire the highly skilled employees necessary for growth in both the near and long term. Studies estimate that for every foreign worker employed in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics-based industry, another 2.62 jobs are created.

Instead of providing a path for foreign students graduating with advanced STEM degrees to remain in America and put their knowledge to work here, in too many cases we force them to leave. That deprives U.S. employers of the best workers, and also creates stronger foreign competition.

The need for reform is resonating with the American public. A poll released last week by the Partnership for a New American Economy showed that 80 percent of voters want Congress to take action on immigration reform this year. In Virginia, 84 percent believe the immigration system needs fixing and that Congress should take action. That includes an overwhelming majority of Republicans.

The hold-up seems to be this idea in Washington that Congress has to pass one piece of legislation that solves every challenge our country faces on the subject.

Not every immigration challenge has a solution. But that shouldn’t stop Washington from moving forward on policies that have strong bipartisan support and the backing of the American people. Each incremental step will have a positive impact, and may even shed light on other solutions.

Washington can start by securing our borders and expanding H-1B visas. It could develop an efficient system that would allow people pursuing STEM degrees to remain in the country after graduation to put that education to use here. It could create an efficient e-verify process for American businesses.

There’s no shortage of ideas in Washington. There is however a shortage of political will.

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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…