Mardan Afrasiabi: Bang for The Buck – Republicans and The Immigration Reform Game

As we get closer to the eventual signing of the new immigration bill into law, Republicans would be well-advised to stop playing the dangerous balancing game of “having their cake and eating it too” with the immigration issue! The Republican party is trying to play a fine balancing act, by on the one hand allowing Marco Rubio to be identified as a leader of the bill in the Senate, but on the other hand still demonstrating some opposition to the provisions of the bill that many of the party faithful find offensive.

It is simply time for the Republican party to see the facts for what they are: Immigration reform is a “must”, and meaningful opposition to any reform will become political suicide for the party of Lincoln. If the party is not a meaningful participant in such reform, it will be viewed as having been a road-block, and as such, may not see the White House for a generation or more. In fact, the Republican party can have its cake and eat it too, if it aggressively pursues a policy of immigration reform: Not only will it win big points with the Latin/Hispanic vote, but it will attract a whole generation of potential Republicans to the US.

Again and again, 20th Century history showed that liberal (in its classic sense, not in the hijacked “big government” definition) economic opportunity leads to economic progress and advancement. That, by definition, should be good for a Republican party that if motivated by its roots, can be connected by immigrants to the pursuit of the American Dream. The current immigration bill, with its focus on work skills and economic progress can achieve that goal (

A 2012 report by the Kaufman Foundation report showed that for the first time business start-ups by immigrants has declined in the US. At the same time, several progressive countries like Britain, Chile and Canada have introduced so-called startup visas to entrepreneurs, in order to attract capital, talent and opportunity to their countries. In a classic guerilla marketing technique, the Canadian government has purchased a billboard, advertising the startup visa program to immigrants in the Bay Area who are having trouble or worry about having trouble, in staying in the U.S. “H-1B problems?” it reads “Pivot to Canada.”
It is perhaps instructive to go over the most basic elements of the Senate’s comprehensive reform legislation, passed last week. They are:

Expanded immigrant visa programs, and expanded programs for nonimmigrant visas including for H-1B (high-skilled) workers and for agricultural guest workers.

Significantly tighter border security, with a doubling of the number of border agents patrolling the US-Mexican border.

Expansion of the E-Verify program that checks new hires and their immigration status, as well as higher penalties for illegal immigrant employment, in order to force more employers into becoming compliant;
And finally, and to the greatest chagrin of the Republican party, the granting of legal status to many of the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US, who meet certain requirements, while offering them a path to citizenship.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) economists, citing empirical research, have made the predication that “an influx of immigrants, particularly highly skilled immigrants, would lead to increased innovation and task specialization.”

“I think we make it too difficult to attract and retain talented people, including entrepreneurs,” said Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center. “It is clear that our laws haven’t kept pace with new business models and ways of starting companies that are small, nimble, and flexible.”

The immigration bill would also assist foreign-born entrepreneurs, by offering a new program called the INVEST non-immigrant visa, which, if passed, would allow 10,000 “qualified” entrepreneurs and investors to stay in the U.S. In order to do so, the person must have created at least five jobs, lived in America for two years and raised $500,000 or more for the business and earned revenues of at least $750,000.

The bill also proposes almost twice the amount of H-1B visas, which are given to high-skilled employees, raising the amount from 65,000 to 110,000; as well as up to 25,000 more visas for immigrants who have earned a master’s degree or higher in science, technology, engineering or math.

Would this not be a boon to the Republican party? How would a bill, which attracts the best and the brightest, while enabling those who had the will, the motivation and the tenacity to brave dangerous circumstances to arrive in the US, to stay in this country not be good for Republicans?

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