America is the richest and most immigrant-friendly country in the world. The two are inextricably linked. It’s our history, and it’s what we’ve proved again and again. Those who choose to change our history and would make us less immigrant-friendly would also make us less successful, less prosperous, and certainly less American.
Throughout our history, some have argued that immigrants will become wards of the state once they reach our shores. When the Irish arrived, that argument was used against them. So too when Eastern European Jews, and Southern Europeans, and Asians arrived in America. Every time new influxes of immigrants come to America, the same argument is offered, and every time the argument is proved wrong.
But, once again, here we are, arguing about the relative merits of immigration reform. Reforming our outdated immigration system will be a stimulus and a jobs package rolled into one. The economic growth we will derive from immigration reform is expected to reduce the deficit by $2.7 trillion over the next decade. Immigration reform will be a tremendous boon to our economy.
The Partnership for a New American Economy points out that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. Those companies employ more than 10 million people worldwide. For what possible reason are we telling talented people who want to become Americans that they should go innovate and create jobs for our competitors overseas? Do we really want to banish from our shores the very spirit that made this country great? Of course we don’t. People are assets; they’re not liabilities. More people, more solutions. More people, more good ideas. More people, more job-creating businesses.
Thankfully, there’s a real chance that immigration reform will be passed. Bipartisan attempts to comprehensively reform our broken immigration system, led by the “Gang of Eight” senators, are showing promise. The process has just begun and there is much more to be done, but the bill is rooted in strong conservative principles. It provides funding to tighten security on our borders, it seeks out talent by enlisting the best and brightest the world has to offer to tackle the task of growing our economy and creating jobs. It installs a smart E-Verify system to help employers know exactly who they are hiring, and it transforms our guest worker program into one that is market-driven and can respond to the needs of the economy and the labor market instead of one that creates barriers to growth based on arbitrary quotas.
Of course, this is still Washington, and there will be attempts on both sides of the debate to derail any meaningful reform or to pull it to one side or the other to the point that it loses its viability. The debate over amnesty is a perfect example. The word “amnesty” implies absolute exoneration that asks nothing in return. This bill does nothing of that sort. The provisions for a path to citizenship enumerated in this bill are more accurately described as atonement than they are as amnesty. In order to achieve citizenship, one must pay a fine, remit all unpaid back taxes, pass a background check, learn English, and then wait 10 years to become a legal resident, then three more to become a citizen. That is not amnesty, that is atonement, and atonement is something we value as Americans.
This issue is far too important for sound bites and oversimplifications to dominate the debate. An all-or-nothing approach will do nothing but consign us to continued anemic growth, a furtherance of a shadow economy that benefits lawbreakers at the expense of those who play by the rules, porous borders, and a loss of innovation and entrepreneurial initiative.
The good news is the Gang of Eight bill addresses these issues head on. It’s not perfect; it’s a compromise. But it’s a compromise that is necessary and will lead to far more opportunity for America than letting obstinacy lead to inaction.
Please join me by adding your voice to the growing number of Americans who agree that we need comprehensive immigration reform now. Go to MarchforInnovation.com for more information. While there, take the opportunity to send a message to your senators via Facebook or Twitter and let them know you support efforts to modernize our broken immigration system.
Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform.