Why Republicans should support comprehensive immigration reform


A few weeks ago in an MSNBC townhall, President Barack Obama challenged Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform instead of attacking his executive orders. While the president does appear to be abusing his power, Republicans would do well to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill with provisions for improved border security and increased legal immigration. Simply put, this would show the public that Republicans are for immigration. Republicans also have fiscal and moral reasons to support immigration reform.

The economic argument for immigration is simple. Most immigrants who come to America are willing to work hard. Their work, whether in lower or higher skill jobs, increases America’s production. According to a 2012 study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, 18 percent of small business owners are immigrants, which makes the immigrant share of small business owners 13 percent higher than the immigrant share of the population. These businesses employ Americans.

We see many immigrants at the helms of Fortune 500 companies as well. According to a study released by Partnership for a New American Economy, of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies, more than 40 percent were started by immigrants or their children.  Sergey Brin, one of the cofounders of Google, immigrated from Russia, and such is the case with companies like eBay, Tesla Motors and Facebook.

Economics aside, Republicans ought to consider the morality of immigration. With growing conflict in countries like Egypt and Mexico, America remains a haven of peace, prosperity and stability. This should make sense to American citizens because most descend from immigrants: Europeans came to America for the sake of religious freedom, Irish immigrants boarded ships to escape the potato famine and German Jews found asylum from the atrocity of World War II. As a nation established by immigrants, it would be wrong for America to close its doors.

But with millions pouring over the borders, what is the United States to do? Reform is the operative word. A bill backed by Republicans must accomplish two things: increase security and increase legal immigration.

US/Mexico Border. Nogales, AZ. Photo by Ryan Bavetta of Flickr.

If the United States expects to install an effective and sustainable immigration system, security is essential, but difficult. America’s southern border is expansive, stretching 2,000 miles from California to Texas, and drug cartels control large parts of Mexico beneath the United States border. Airtight security may not be possible, but there is room for improvement. According to the Heritage Foundation, the traditional way for people to cross the border is through 39 ports of entry (POE). Currently the United States’ POE’s aren’t equipped with the latest technologies. The systems and infrastructure need improvement.

Along with provisions for such improvements, the bill must increase manpower, cameras and walls along the border. Heritage reports that about 375,000 illegal immigrants come to America through gaps in the border each year. This hurts the economy because of the toll it takes on state governments in their schooling, health care and other budgets. This is also a danger to national security.

Increasing legal immigration begins by issuing more visas and green cards. Many people emigrate illegally from Mexico to work and send money home to their families. To prevent this, the United States must issue more H2A visas (agricultural working visas) and regular working, H2B visas. If America wants to continue to be a home to innovation and research, it must issue more H1B, specialty working visas. These visas aren’t just charitable, they’re necessary.

When Americans hear “visas” these days, many think of the difficult question immediately at hand: what to do with the 5 million refugees whom President Obama wants to grant citizenship. With so many of them being children, it is easy to see why many people are eager to grant green cards. But for a legal immigration system to work, visas need to be easier to obtain and the consequences for illegal immigrants need to be greater.

Immigrants must come to America to make a life for themselves. John Quincy Adams spoke of this in a letter to a German immigrant requesting a job. Adams tells him not to expect “favors from the governments.” If immigrants “choose to become citizens” Adams says they should expect “equal rights” and “if affluent, to possess the means of making their property productive, with moderation, and with safety;—if indigent, but industrious, honest and frugal, the means of obtaining easy and comfortable subsistence for themselves and their families.”

This should be America’s outlook on immigration.