The debate over immigration reform is as hot as ever — and the rhetoric is getting hotter. People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. It would do us good to cool down and reconsider some truths about immigration reform.
Our current system is broken. It isn’t serving the needs of businesses and employees or working for our economy and society.
Employers are often unable to hire new high-skilled foreign-born professional workers — even those who are educated in the United States. Why? Because hiring caps were set more than 20 years ago when our economy was one-third its current size. And Congress hasn’t allocated for a single temporary foreign worker to legally enter our country for lesser-skilled year-round jobs — even if a business can’t find sufficient numbers of qualified and interested Americans through rigorous local labor market recruitment.
On top of that, we don’t have a uniform national mandatory electronic employment verification system — without one, the United States will remain a magnet for illegal immigration. More can also be done to keep our borders secure. And, finally, a system in which more than 11 million undocumented immigrants are living and working in our communities in de facto amnesty is indefensible.
Welcoming immigrants is good for our economy and our society. Immigrants do not typically compete with Americans for jobs, and, in fact, create more jobs through entrepreneurship, economic activity and tax revenues. Immigrants serve as a complement to U.S.-born workers and can help fill labor shortages across the skill spectrum and in key sectors.
Immigrants can also help replenish the workforce as baby boomers retire, growing our tax base and raising the worker-to-retiree ratio, which is essential to support programs for the elderly and the less fortunate.
Support for reform has never been stronger. Proponents of commonsense immigration reform include lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as labor, business, law enforcement, ethnic organizations, religious groups and the high-tech industry. Most important, the public is overwhelmingly behind it. Polls consistently show that the majority of voters believe that the status quo on immigration is unacceptable.
There will never be a perfect time for reform. The political landscape isn’t going to be any more conducive to reform in two years or four years. For too long, the can has been kicked down the road. And while we’ve failed to act, the problem has only grown worse. Today, the fact remains that it is in our national interest to get it done.
The case for immigration reform is clear. The need is undeniable. The time is now.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.