Republicans need to help pass comprehensive immigration reform this year

boehnerimmigrationSpeaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan are right.  The National Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Washington Business are right.  The American Farm Bureau and the Washington Growers League are right.  Republicans need to help pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

Comprehensive immigration reform is backed by a broad coalition of organizations, each with their own reasons for supporting these changes.  Republicans should embrace this compromise effort with a smile on their faces.  Why?  Because only through a comprehensive agreement will they get the border security improvements they have long wanted.  And immigration changes will spur growth, which is the main objective of conservative economic policy.

Last week Speaker Boehner made it clear that the House was not simply going to pass the immigration bill recently adopted by the Senate, but he is urging his caucus to take action on this issue.  Good.  The House should pass their own legislation, and then begin negotiations with the Senate.  There are hundreds of details to work out, but at the end of the process Republicans need to join Democrats in passing three major reforms:  substantially increased border security, a path to legal status for most of the undocumented immigrants already here, and a new guest worker visa program.

In regards to border security, the bill passed by the Senate includes 20,000 new border agents, 700 miles of fencing, and requires the development of new enhanced strategies for fencing and border security.  Perhaps Republicans can negotiate even more border security in the final agreement.  But one thing is certain:  none of this will happen outside of a comprehensive agreement.  Democrats are not going to agree to more border security unless there is movement on the immigration issues they care about.   Republicans can get most, if not all, they have ever wanted in terms of making the border secure, but only if they are willing to engage in an overall bipartisan compromise.

And this is the best part:  the immigration changes being demanded by the Democrats will create growth, revenue, and new jobs; exactly what America needs, and exactly in line with the GOP’s rising- tide, make-the-pie bigger approach to economics.

Studies done by conservative groups such as the Cato Institute and the Brookings Institution, show that immigrants of all skill levels bring vitality and growth to our economy.  As economies in many parts of the world stagnate due to an aging population, immigration will be vital to future American growth.

This week, the Washington Compact, a pro-immigration coalition I am working with, is releasing a review of various studies on the economic benefits of immigration reform.  Here is some of what they found:

  • Following the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants, U.S. GDP is expected to increase by $832 billion over the course of ten years.
    • Americans’ personal income will increase by $470 billion;
    • 121,000 new jobs will be added annually;
  • Newly-documented immigrants will pay an additional $109 billion in taxes ($69 billion in federal taxes and $40 billion in state and local government taxes).
  • More workers will not reduce the number of available jobs; instead, a larger labor force will help trigger economic growth. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that in 2006, 90 percent of American workers received higher wages because of immigration.
  • In Washington State, over the next decade immigration reform will:
    • Raise Gross State Product by $21.3 billion;
    • Increase the cumulative earnings of all residents by $12.5 billion;
    • Increase the cumulative taxes paid by undocumented immigrants by $1.293 billion;
    • Add 3,000 jobs annually.
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that over the next decade, the act will reduce the federal budget deficit by a net $175 billion and increase federal revenues by $459 billion.

The great challenge facing this generation is stagnation and a lack of good jobs. Too many Americans are unemployed, or underemployed. Immigration is one key to growing the economy and creating the jobs our families need.

Enhanced border security and economic growth.  Win-win.  All Republicans have to do is have the courage to say yes.

— Chris Vance

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Chris Vance

Chris Vance

Former State Representative, County Councilman, and GOP State Chairman. Now working as a Public Affairs Consultant, Senior Advisor to SPI Randy Dorn, and Political Commentator on KING and KCTS TV and Crosscut.com