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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
Commentary

Congress needs to act with urgency to fix badly broken immigration system

Published:

Everyone in Congress agrees that we have an unsustainable immigration crisis. This crisis includes porous borders, poor visa expiration controls, and a labor quota system that does not respond to the labor and production needs of our economy and is, in fact, detrimental to our country in its current state.

Thus, after the government shutdown of last fall, Congress returned to work pledging to make immigration reform a reality. Now, six months later, we are looking at a narrowing window of opportunity to fully engage on this issue as soon as Congress returns from recess.

The leadership of the House understands how imperative it is to adopt legislation to provide bipartisan solutions to our immigration and economic challenges.

America has a declining population. In 20 years, 79 million baby-boomer generation Americans will have left the workforce to be replaced by fewer than 50 million X-generation and millennials. The USA cannot sustain its economic production or the labor needs of its employers without a smart legal immigration system being put in place now.

In Florida, it is estimated that our economy and GDP will increase by $2.7 billion and a total of 35,000 new jobs will have been created within the first decade after the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. This is one reason why 70 percent of Floridians favor legislative action now.

Just expanding our visa options for high-skilled workers (STEM: science, technology, engineering and math) will add about $850 million to our economy and create 9,000 new jobs in the first year alone. These bright foreign students are taught at our state’s finest universities. They train here but must leave for their places of birth, where they are then employed to help compete against United States companies in this era of globalization.

Likewise, at the other side of the spectrum, many low-skilled workers already in our country provide services in the agricultural, hospitality and service industries that American workers are no longer willing to fulfill.

The worst alternative is doing nothing and expanding on the chaos, uncertainty and inhumane circumstances that we currently find ourselves in.

Fixing our borders, visa challenges and our future legal immigration worker needs is not hard. These measures should pass the House chamber in quick order.

How we find a solution to the 11 million undocumented foreigners in our land is the most difficult component for which to find consensus. But find it we must. Whether it’s the Senate’s version, a simple legalization statute with appropriate penalties and conditions, or a simpler worker permit process, the House must debate, deliberate and eventually find consensus.

It is time for a bipartisan, meaningful solution to fix a bad and broken immigration system and move on to a better America for all.

Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union, past chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a senior partner in the international law firm of Squire Sanders.

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