Last summer, the Wall Street Journal called the immigration reform bill which passed the Senate with bipartisan support but stalled in the House, a “$4.6 Trillion Opportunity.” The editorial outlined that as 75 million baby boomers begin to retire, new immigrants in the workforce will be essential to Social Security’s sustainability. In 1950, there were 16 workers for every retiree; today the ratio is under 3 to 1. Here in Montana, a 2013 employment report showed Montana has the highest number of workers age 65 and older in the nation.
What should immigration reform look like? I believe it must streamline the legal immigration process, sensibly deal with undocumented immigrants already here, and include measures to prevent future illegal immigration. Illegal behavior cannot be rewarded, yet rounding up and deporting approximately 11 million people is in no way realistic. Background checks and the payment of fines and back taxes are realistic. Amnesty-an inaccurate buzzword — is defined as a full pardon, which this approach is not.
Montana’s congressional delegation, Sens. Tester, Walsh, Congressman Daines, candidates Lewis and Zinke, and state leaders, Gov. Bullock and Montana legislators can follow Massachusetts Congressman Harrison Otis, who proclaimed in 1797 that America had reached its maturity, was fully populated and that immigration was no longer needed — or our leaders can look at the immeasurable benefits legal immigration has had since 1797 — and champion both immigration reform on the national level, as well as, state incentives to attract talented immigrants to Montana.
The United States wasn’t built into the thriving country we are today alone, but through the contributions of millions of immigrants who journeyed to America because this country guaranteed fundamental human rights and rewarded hard work and innovation. And once in the U.S., immigrants have demonstrated a strong work ethic. Forbes reported that in 2010, 18 percent of all Fortune 500 companies had at least one immigrant founder. Furthermore, in 2011, 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses were started by immigrants.