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Posts Tagged ‘immigration reform’

The Bipartisan House Immigration Bill You’ve Never Heard Of

December 9th, 2013

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By now we’ve heard all the doom and gloom predictions of the chances of passing immigration reform. The media may paint a pretty pessimistic picture, but secretly Congress agrees on more than you think they do.

In May, the House Committee on Homeland Security voice voted—unanimously—in favor of the Border Security Results Act of 2013. Almost as shocking as a bipartisan vote in support of an immigration bill is the fact that the bill focuses on border security—one of the most contentious and partisan issues in the immigration policy debate. And rest assured, this is no minor messaging bill.

The Border Security Results Act requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a national strategy for border security based on an analysis of the state of the border—a common sense approach to avoid both over-spending and over-militarizing at the Southern border. The bill would put Department of Defense sensor technology no longer needed in Iraq or Afghanistan to work monitoring the border so border patrol troops and resources can be allocated where they are truly needed. DHS would have 180 days to submit a data-based plan for maintaining control of the border and 90 days to craft a strategy for implementation. Within 2 years of the submission of the implementation plan, the strategy must lead to the apprehension of 90% of illegal border crossers in high traffic areas. Within 5 years, 90% of all illegal border crossers must be apprehended. Homeland Security must certify that these goals have been met. The strategy, implementation plan, and the metrics they rely upon must be verified by the Government Accountability Office, a National Laboratory that specializes in border security, and the DHS centers of excellence network. No money can be spent on new resources until the strategy has been evaluated by these independent experts. In addition, the bill requires the implementation of a biometric exit program at ports of entry to better track who is leaving the country and when, as well as a review of border security duplication and cost effectiveness.

Surely, if the House can figure out how to come together on border security, the rest of a comprehensive immigration reform package is in reach. When the Senate was considering this issue, the border security “surge” amendment was the final step in negotiations before a bipartisan bill was passed. Perhaps this House Committee on Homeland Security bill is a good omen—and at the very least, it is place to start. Americans—even the ones in Congress—aren’t really as far apart on immigration as it seems. Seventy-four percent of the country says current immigration policy either needs major changes or to be completely rebuilt. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said reform is “going to happen” and Speaker Boehner proclaimed immigration reform is “absolutely not” dead. The Senate’s Gang of 8 set an example of how it can be done—but there isn’t only one route to fixing our broken system. If the House could come together on a bill or a series of bills, built off of the foundation of the Border Security Results Act, they could give Congress a chance to do what we elected them to do—make progress on the issues that matter.

Keeping the World’s Best and Brightest

October 31st, 2013

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You think the Obamacare website is difficult to navigate? Try the immigration system.

Suppose you run a business and want to hire your top-performing summer intern – a master’s degree graduate in electrical engineering from India. Good luck. Because just as many of our international competitors are snatching up the highest-skilled workers around the globe, the quirky and outdated U.S. immigration system seems intentionally designed to hold back American employers and entrepreneurs.

Take, for example, Australia and Canada. There, your former intern could likely obtain a visa based on the employment offer and his in-demand skills. But here, that visa would come through in about five years – a wait that repels talent, rather than attracting it.

The reason is that the U.S. sets a strict and meager quota of giving out only 14 percent of each year’s green cards (for lawful permanent residents) based on skills – compared to Canada’s 63 percent and Australia’s two-thirds. That means out of a million green cards our government awards each year, only 140,000 go to immigrants petitioning to come to or stay in the country based on their exceptional economic value. Moreover, about half of those green cards are actually claimed by spouses and children of applicants, not the super-skilled workers our economy craves.

Our immigration policies are so retrograde that we offer the same number of employment-based green cards today that we did in 1990 – the year the internet was invented (with a great degree of help from high-skilled immigrants, incidentally). To complicate matters further, the U.S. immigration system also discriminates against exceptional workers from certain countries. In other words, if your intern was from Iceland, there would be no waiting period for a green card; if she was from China, you’ll wait more than half a decade. That’s because current law establishes hard country caps to prohibit citizens of any one country from claiming more than 9,800 employment-based visas – whether that country is the size of India (1.2 billion population) or Iceland (315,000).

What’s most stunning is that many of these high-skilled immigrants already live here, and then we force them to leave. Our world class colleges and universities attracted more than 225,000 new international students in 2011-12, and that number is increasing every year. Many earn advanced degrees in fields that create jobs and wealth, such as engineering, computer science and advanced mathematics. But after graduation, we force them to return home. There is only one winner when our immigration system prevents a business owner from hiring that ideal employee after graduation – the country who puts the student we educated to work for its economy.

For the last five years, Congress has sought to reform our immigration system in fits and starts. The best opportunity for reform is now with a bipartisan immigration bill that Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., steered through the Senate with deep bipartisan support. This bill addresses the vexing problem of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here in a tough, fair, and practical way. Those provisions have garnered the most headlines. But for the economy, the bill brings U.S. immigration into the 21st century.

The Senate’s plan would exempt those with a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from green card caps and vastly increase the number of temporary high-skilled visas available. It would move the future flow of immigration into the country from one principally based on family and proximity to one that also recognizes economic value and skills. It acknowledges that immigrants of all skill levels are essential to economic growth, but that those of the highest skill levels are urgently needed. After all, where do we want the next Intel, Facebook, Amazon, Apple or Google to start – here or in another country?

Across America, business owners are dreaming of hiring the best-educated, most exemplary workers they can find to help grow their companies and our economy, and they need Congress to fix our broken immigration system which currently stands in their way. If we want to compete in the 21st century global economy, we need to pass 21st century immigration reform.

The last true overhaul of our immigration laws was in 1986. A lot has happened since then. Our country and our economy need an updated system, and we can’t wait any longer.

This piece was originally published via US News & World Report.

Seeking consensus on immigration, guns

February 4th, 2013

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Two tough issues — immigration reform and gun control. “It won’t be easy,” President Barack Obama said about gun control in December, “but that’s no excuse not to try.”   Tuesday, he said about immigration reform: “The closer we get, the more emotional this debate is going to become.”

Which does he stand a better chance of winning?  Answer: immigration. On immigration, Obama has Democrats strongly behind him. Republicans are divided — and freaked out by the issue. On guns, he’s got Republicans strongly against him. Democrats are divided — and freaked out by the issue.

On both issues, the president has the public solidly behind him. That’s his biggest asset. “There’s already a growing consensus for us to build from,” he said on Dec. 19, five days after the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre. “A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons.’’ On Jan. 29, when he went to Las Vegas to speak about immigration reform, he said, “A broad consensus is emerging and … a call for action can be heard coming from all across America.”

Even more important, the president’s popularity is soaring. He has a 60 percent favorable rating in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, the highest since his first year in office.

The president intends to use the bully pulpit to rally public opinion behind both causes. He also intends to use his 2012 campaign organization, which has morphed from Obama for America to Organizing for Action, to browbeat Congress into action. Welcome to real the permanent campaign.

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