Companies like Quicken Loans need access to the highest-quality pool of employees. Some are immigrants who should be encouraged to stay in America. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)
Obamacare’s premium sticker shock, botched website rollout, and chilling effect on the economy is a cautionary tale of the unintended consequences when Washington tries to reform consumer markets. By contrast, immigration reform currently stalled in Congress is an example of sensible reform of a core government function that promises to simplify immigration and benefit the larger economy.
Obamacare and the government shutdown have deepened political mistrust between the White House and the Republican House, and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has blocked a Senate-passed immigration bill from coming to the House floor.
The bipartisan law’s core affects pro-free market reforms that benefit all Americans and can put Washington’s warring tribes back on track to resolving real problems.
At a time when the national and Michigan economies are struggling for growth and revenue, immigration reform’s increase of H1B visas would bring tangible short-term -and long-term results.
And by giving 11 million immigrants a path to citizenship, the bill would not only relieve burdens on law enforcement by bringing people here illegally above ground, but would also assimilate them into the economy.
Demand for engineers stretches from Silicon Valley to Detroit. Michigan automakers and tech firms like Quicken and Compuware need tech labor, yet antiquated caps on H1B visas not only retard hiring but send jobs overseas.
Caps further discourage talented foreigners that flock to Michigan’s universities from investing their American education here. For example, a Chinese student with a degree from the University of Michigan must now wait almost 10 years, stuck with the same employer-sponsored visa, before scoring a green card necessary to start his own business.
Unless Congress sensibly raises visa caps, jobs will follow students and workers overseas.
Republicans reflexively balk at giving 11 million immigrants here illegally a path to citizenship, but studies show that reform benefits the economy. Former director of the Congressional Budget Office Douglas Holtz-Eakin, now president of the American Action Forum, anticipates major gains in domestic production, incomes and lower budget deficits.
Most immigrants come to this country to contribute, and as their language and job skills improve so do their incomes. More visas and encouraging undocumented immigrants to emerge from the shadows “would raise the pace of economic growth by nearly a percentage point over the near term [and] raise GDP per capita by over $1,500,” he finds.
Why? Because immigrants are generally productive, with higher business job creation and labor-participation rates than native-born Americans.
What’s more, free market economist Holtz-Eakin endorses the Senate bill’s bias toward visas for greater skills and education over extended-family unification — a goal which would also boost growth. A growing economy reduces the federal deficit by at least $2.5 trillion over 10 years — or three times more than the president’s January tax hike.
Yet, allegedly conservative, free-market House Republicans would deny these pro-business reforms for an obsession with White House enforcement of border security. “The American people will not accept any attempt to fix our broken immigration system unless they have the confidence that we have actually secured the border,” says Michigan Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township.
Better the GOP embrace the Senate bill’s benefits than work hard to scrub it of over-regulation, like forcing companies to pay more for foreign workers than American-born labor.
The immigration bill could provide true government stimulus while refocusing Washington’s efforts on issues that it is meant to handle.