Why We Should Be Talking About Immigration

The Obama administration has effectively marginalized the Republican Party when it comes to immigration by characterizing Republicans as anti-Latino, which is nonsense. Republicans are simply demanding that the government follow current immigration law, which means that immigrants need to go through the proper steps to become a U.S. citizen – something that immigrants have been doing for more than 150 years.

To curry favor of Hispanic voters, the Obama administration is working to lower the bar to citizenship. Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General recently released a report that suggested that one-quarter of all U.S. immigration officers report they’ve been pressured by supervisors to overlook problems on citizenship applications.

By making it easier for undocumented immigrants from mixed citizenship families to achieve legal status, the Obama administration is trying to redirect Hispanic hostility away from the record number of deportations that have occurred since they assumed office. There have been more than 1,000,000 deportations in the past three years.

Behind the scenes, Republicans are actually looking at the relationship between streamlining legal immigration to promote entrepreneurship and job creation. The trouble is that the mainstream media would rather cover the far more divisive issue of illegal immigration.

This country was founded by immigrants, but it’s a story that has been largely forgotten. A new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. Eighteen percent (or 90) of the 500 companies had immigrant founders. The children of immigrants started another 114 companies.

The report indicates that “The revenue generated by Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or children of immigrants is greater than the GDP (gross domestic product) of every country in the world outside the U.S., except China and Japan.” These Fortune 500 companies had combined revenues of $4.2 trillion in 2010, $1.7 trillion which from immigrant-founded companies.

The report also notes,” Many of America’s greatest brands – Apple, Google, AT&T Budweiser, Colgate, eBay, General Electric, IBM, and McDonalds to name just a few – owe their origin to a founder who was an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.”

So instead of castigating immigrants we should be encouraging them to seek legal citizenship so they can continue to contribute to our growth.

For example, in 2011, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced H.R. 399, the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s From Leaving the Economy Act (STAPLE Act).

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the STAPLE measure would enable individuals who have earned a Ph.D. in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) from a U.S. university and have a job offer from a U.S. employer to be exempt from the numerical limitation on permanent resident visas (green cards) and H-1B visas.

Equally important is the StartUp Visa Act of 2011 (S. 565/H.R. 1114), introduced in both the House and Senate in March 2011 by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and co-sponsor Richard Lugar (R-IN) that is intended to help immigrant entrepreneurs obtain permanent resident status in the United States. The new wrinkle in the Act would focus on professional workers and graduate students already being integrated into American business, research, and development efforts.

This is the discussion we should be having on immigration. We need to create an accepting environment that will encourage more immigrants to take the legal route to citizenship.

If the Republicans want to engage the Hispanic community, this is the story that they should be telling. We welcome immigrants and when they go through the legal channels, they will find the rewards they seek. When helping themselves they will be helping their adopted country prosper.

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