Robert Loewen: We need market-based immigration reform
By ROBERT LOEWEN / For the Register
Republicans and Democrats differ on immigration reform mainly as it applies to future immigration: Republicans want more of it, and Democrats want less. Both parties have a plan that would allow undocumented residents to get right with the law and eventually find a pathway to citizenship, if that is what they want.
But the parties differ on how. Democrats would prefer to limit legal immigration by keeping the status-quo. That is, preserving an antiquated, 1960s-era, visa system that prevents millions of undocumented residents already living here from working here legally, while continuing to ignore market demand for seasonal labor.
Democrats would prefer to limit legal immigration by keeping the status-quo. That is, preserving an antiquated, 1960s-era, visa system that prevents millions of undocumented residents already living here from working here legally, while continuing to ignore market demand for seasonal labor.
Republicans, on the other hand, favor increasing immigration through a new guest worker program that allows undocumented workers to stay and work legally, provided they meet certain requirements, and to travel freely between borders. This program would help meet the needs of American businesses, especially for low-wage jobs in sectors like agriculture and food processing, but would also give undocumented immigrants a chance to live and work here legally and to travel freely to their home countries without fear of deportation. A guest worker program will do more than any other proposed reform to ensure that immigration reform is not a repeat of the 1986 amnesty, where millions of illegal border crossings resulted from a lack of enforcement.
Why won’t Democrats support Republicans on a measure that would increase immigration, provide more freedom of movement for immigrant workers, and more freedom of choice for American business? Because unions oppose guest workers, who they cannot organize, and whom Democrats cannot register as new voters. It’s no secret that unions donated over $500 million to elect Democrats during the 2012 national elections.
Republicans want a guest worker program that gives more immigrants the opportunity to work here legally now, and also support a pathway to citizenship. That pathway, however, has to be fair to those who are already pursuing visas, those already “in line.”
In 2011, the Lincoln Club of Orange County proposed that Republican candidates drop their harsh rhetoric on immigration and adopt an immigration reform plan based on free-market principles that emphasized a guest worker program, enhanced border security, and a more effective e-verify system for employers. The conservative Lincoln Club has been supporting Republican candidates for over 50 years, and this plan influenced many who we helped to elect to rethink their approach to immigration reform. Since then we’ve learned that other prominent Republicans across the country – conservatives such as Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich and Marco Rubio – independently shared our sentiments and were developing similar plans for reform that include common-sense ideas like increasing visas available for highly skilled workers.
Although the rhetoric of the 2012 presidential primary drowned out these voices for a brief time, the recent discussion about the bipartisan proposal for immigration reform has revived a surge of Republican voices advocating a free-market approach to immigration. And based on the overwhelming support Lincoln Club representatives have received from Republican grassroots groups around California, it seems that most Republicans in this state favor this plan over the harsh rhetoric of the past.
The time is now for Republicans to rally around reforms that are rooted in free-market principles. Rhetoric like “self-deportation” was just a phrase made up by a failed political consultant who should never be heard from again. We can’t buy into the media-driven caricature that Republicans are racist. We are compassionate human beings, and I don’t know anyone in our Party, including any of our candidates, who believes that deportation of millions of people merits serious consideration for any purpose.
But compassion also means finding ways to assure all Americans that a 2013 solution on immigration will not be a repeat of 1986. The only avenue for entry to the United States available to millions who have come here since 1986 has been an underground human smuggling network. Ellis Island it’s not. No one should ever again have to endure the murder, rape and deprivation that accompanied the arrival of those people, undocumented or not, into the United States of America.
A new guest worker program, coupled with increased enforcement, provides a humane and sensible pathway to legal immigration, one that honestly recognizes that American businesses need immigrant labor and allows undocumented workers to fill those jobs, legally and freely. Democrats need to cast aside their allegiance to unions and support this Republican proposal for the good of our economy and of every American.
Robert Loewen is President of the Lincoln Club of Orange County.