PublishedJanuary 11, 2011

Skilled Immigration Reform in the New Congress

With Republican control of the House and a larger Republican minority in the Senate, the conventional wisdom seems to be that any legislative action on immigration reform will be difficult. Certainly any attempts at legalizing illegal immigrants (and comprehensive reform packages that contain them) are likely to be met with fierce resistance by Republicans. However, we should not automatically assume that the new House majority would be opposed to any form of immigration. It is important to note that the kind of skilled immigration reform that CCIA and the tech industry advocate aligns closely with Republican principles.

CCIA has long supported a market-based H-1B visa cap, exemptions for advanced degree holders in science, technology, engineering and math, and streamlining the employment-based green card system. This is based on the need to enable U.S. technology companies to hire the highly skilled foreign nationals they need to remain innovative and competitive in the global economy. Reforming arbitrary visa quotas and bureaucratic delays to free entrepreneurial companies to compete for global talent is a goal that conservatives can support. Indeed, the foreword to the Pledge to America (the Republican policy agenda they ran on in 2010) mentions, “taking steps to assure current businesses and future entrepreneurs that the government will not stifle their ability to compete in the global marketplace.”
The prospect of conservative support for legal high-skilled immigration was raised by no less a conservative than Erick Erickson of RedState in a November 2009 post that laid out the political benefits of pushing for “job creator immigration”, which he characterizes as “immigration done right, which would expand jobs in the economy and bring into the country an influx of smart, capable, ready to work citizens who actually want a full ownership stake in the American system.”
This last point of wanting an ownership stake is a noteworthy one. If, as Speaker Boehner stated in his first speech, “more than a country, America is an idea” high-skilled immigrants have shown how they have bought into and respect that idea by choosing it over their own native country (and any other country in the world) to bring their skills and go through the legal immigration process. I speak as one who has done exactly that.
As the 112th Congress begins its work, it will be important for us to make our case that high skilled immigration is something that makes sense for both Republicans and Democrats to support.
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