It’s intermission on immigration reform and arguments are getting more vehement as the Democratic controlled Senate has passed its comprehensive bill, while the Republican majority in the House promises a piecemeal approach. Some leading Republicans view the one–step at a time idea as not a feasible method of fixing the ineffective immigration system. Former President George W. Bush, whose 2007 comprehensive plan failed to pass on the border security issue, made a rare return to politics on July 10 by urging Congress to reach a “positive resolution” on immigration reform. Bush avoided specifics, but his remarks “suggested the need for Republicans to deal with immigration reform in a broad way.”
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has co-written, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, a book every conscientious American should read. Bush’s stance reveals the vast divide within the Republican Party over immigration – not simply reform. His approach is based on cherished American principles and the nation’s future economic growth. He states: “No Republican would vote for legislation that stifled economic growth, promoted illegal immigration, added to the welfare rolls, and failed to ensure a secure border. Yet they essentially will do just that if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform – and leave in place a system that does all of those things.”
Bush specifies that to grow economically, the nation needs more young workers, as the population is aging and its growth slowing. We now seem content with an annual economic growth rate of a meager 2%, rather than a more robust 4%. “Yet,” Bush writes, “only 13% of the immigration visas each are issued for work or special skills. Nearly two-thirds go to relatives of existing residents, under an expansive definition of family preferences that includes not just spouses and minor children but parents, siblings and unmarried adult children. Family preferences crowd out the work-based immigration this country needs.”
Bush also notes the United States is dramatically failing in allowing foreign graduates with advanced technology and science degrees from American universities to remain here and work. Canada, with one-tenth of our population, issues more than 150,000 high-skilled visas, compared to our 65,000. That number would increase to 115,000, and possibly 180,000, based on demand, under the recently passed Senate bill. In reference to education, Bush adds, “Moreover, the House should beef up civics education requirements…. New citizens should be required to not only learn English but to fully understand the nature and workings of our democratic and free-enterprise systems.”
Emphasizing that immigration has historically been the engine of American enterprise and innovation, Bush concludes: “The necessary overhaul of the immigration system cannot be achieved piecemeal. The most important changes – reducing family preferences, creating a robust guest-worker program, and increasing border security – cannot be enacted with Republican votes alone. That means compromise and a comprehensive approach – or the perpetuation of the status quo that has all the detriments of amnesty without any of the economic benefits of reform.”
Two pieces in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), long a bastion of conservative Republican thought, clearly show the deep philosophical divide over the issue. An article by Representative Tom Cotton, R-Ark., declares it’s the House bill or nothing on immigration. The main point for the congressman is increased border security comes before anything else. Rep. Cotton rejects the security provisions of the Senate bill: “The Secure Fence Act of 2006 mandated 700 miles of fencing, but the Senate bill merely restates this long-ignored requirement without mentioning specs or locations [350 miles of fencing are in place; the Senate bill requires an additional 350]…. When I was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, my units relied on guards and technology to secure our bases, but the first line of defense was always a physical perimeter. That’s because fences work.”
The congressman shows his true belief on immigration reform by concluding: “If the Senate insists on the legalization-first approach, then no bill will be enacted. Meanwhile, the House remains focused on addressing Obamacare, the economy and the national debt – which, after all, Americans overwhelming regard as higher priorities than immigration reform.”
Those are valid viewpoints, but the WSJ has a more long-term perspective by stating effective immigration reform would promote vibrant economic growth over the next ten to twenty years that spurs the economy by increasing federal revenue, lowering the national debt, and improving the stagnant economic existence of the vast majority of Americans. The paper disagrees the border should be turned into a Vietnam style DMZ.
In a June 20 editorial, the WSJ lamented the immigration debate had turned its focus on securing the border. That “Republicans are once again demanding more enforcement as the price of their support. Here’s the real story: For some Republicans, border security has become a ruse to kill reform. The border could be defended by the 10th Mountain Division and Claymore antipersonnel mines and it wouldn’t be secure enough…. The U.S.-Mexico border is more secure today than it has been in decades. According to Border Patrol statistics, illegal entries are at a 40-year low. Apprehensions of illegal entrants exceeded 1.1 million in 2005, but in both 2011 and 2012 the number was below 365,000. According to the Government Accountability Office, the number of illegal immigrants who escaped capture at the nine major crossing points from San Diego to El Paso fell an astonishing 86% between 2006 and 2011. All the talk-show shouting about America under siege from immigrants streaming across the Rio Grande is fiction.” In other words, the current 18,400 U.S. Border Patrol agents, increased by an additional 20,000 under the Senate bill, are doing an excellent job.
The WSJ concluded: “Yet many of those on the right who claim to favor legal immigration also oppose guest-worker programs and other visa expansions. This betrays that they really want no new immigration…. The real game here is to kill a bill that would create a more pro-growth and humane immigration system for America and the millions already here or in line to come. If the right succeeds in blowing all this up, one wonders what comes next? Perhaps Republicans can campaign in 2014 on self-deporting the 11 million illegals who are here now. That worked so well for Mitt Romney.”
Enough said. As Sherlock Holmes proclaimed – “The game is on!”