This is a heady time for supporters of real immigration reform. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including our own John McCain and Jeff Flake, have announced their support for a framework of sweeping changes that have long been supported by Arizona’s – and the nation’s – business community.
It is natural that Senators McCain and Flake are at the forefront of this effort. They have been consistent voices for reasonable changes to our immigration system that will secure our borders and grow our economy.
We are seeing real leadership on display. To have a New York Democrat like Chuck Schumer standing next to Florida Republican Marco Rubio, someone who could easily sit this one out in order to protect his status as the latest potential GOP presidential nominee du jour, is an example of putting policy over politics that we could use more of.
That’s not to say that there aren’t politics at play here. Just look at the walloping the Republicans took from Hispanic and Asian voters last November to get a sense of why that party would be wise to alter its posture towards this fast-growing demographic. But as someone who has done his time in the trenches of partisan politics, a bold move like this one won’t necessarily earn valentines from grassroots activists.
Here’s the framework for legislative action on immigration reform that the senators laid out:
- Creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here that is contingent upon securing the border and combating visa overstays;
- Improving our legal immigration system and attracting the world’s best and brightest;
- Strong employment verification; and
- Admitting new workers and protecting workers’ rights.
This emerging framework and the cast of characters involved make me truly optimistic that there is a very real opportunity to advance immigration reform in 2013.
The desire to find a way to keep and attract high tech workers is especially encouraging. Even when unemployment was coming dangerously close to double digits, time and again I heard from employers who were having trouble finding qualified workers. Yet we have a visa system that will train up potential workers in sought after fields through our universities, and then wish them well as they head back to their home countries, and it’s almost a consensus item that we have to fix our broken agriculture worker visa system.
As the president said in his speech Monday in Las Vegas, “… the time has come for common sense, comprehensive immigration reform. […] I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity.”
The fact that the world’s most talented and hardest working want to come to the United States is an asset that no other country can claim. It speaks to the dynamism of our people, culture and economy. I can personally attest that it was a net win when my wife, Tali, and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Israel. Ask North Korea about how well they’re doing attracting new immigrants and you‘ll get a sense of how beneficial immigration can be to a country’s health.
We can secure our borders and secure our economy. Let’s get this done this year.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry