There’s reason for optimism on immigration

The drive to reform America’s broken immigration system suffered a major blow last week when neither the U.S. Senate nor the U.S. House could manage to agree on an appropriation to deal with the thousands of children, many traveling without their parents, who are arriving at our southern border every month.

The president’s request for $3.7 billion to pay for shelters and immigration judges was defeated in the Senate when Democratic leaders were unable to round up the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. The House Republican leaders’ plan foundered when the anti-immigration forces rebelled. The version that finally passed Friday night has no hope of ever becoming law.

If Congress cannot muster enough votes to deal with an emergency immigration issue, a solution to the larger immigration issue would seem to be hopeless. Still, new optimism emerged last week in the form of an advertising campaign for immigration reform.

The campaign is co-sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation, a group not typically associated with social activism. Farmers who depend on migrant labor in places like California and the South have individually made the case for reforms, however, and having the nation’s largest farm organization sign on to the movement adds an important voice to the debate.

This shows the immigration debate is about more than just politics. It is also about how the American economy depends not just on unskilled workers in agricultural and other industries but highly skilled workers in new technologies and entrepreneurs who create small businesses.

The campaign is also sponsored by the Partnership for a New American Economy, which was created by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the business case for welcoming immigrants. The partnership is co-chaired by Bloomberg and seven other high-profile U.S. business executives, including former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch.

The group has bipartisan support among 500 owners of businesses large and small, mayors and community leaders from across the nation. Some surprising backers include tax-reform champion Grover Norquist and Tea Party Express co-founder Sal Russo. Iowa supporters include the mayors of Davenport and Perry and business and civic leaders such as Greater Des Moines Partnership CEO Jay Byers and Bankers Trust President Suku Radia.

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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…