The reform legislation strengthens border security, increases immigration levels for high-skilled workers and graduates of American universities with Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering, and math, and creates a modest — and certainly inadequate — guest-worker program. It allows the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States to earn legal status if they pay fines, undergo a background check, wait ten years during which they have to prove they are working and earning enough to show they would not become a ward of the state. It is a good start.
The senators have put the legislation online, and the bill can be amended in committee or on the floor of the Senate. Then the Republican House will propose its version. Any person of goodwill can suggest improvements. One notes that those who oppose immigration, full stop, have offered no improvements or alternatives.
What has changed since 1986 and 2007? First, the business community and the communities of faith have moved from indifference to engaged and active support. The Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Mormons have all joined in support of comprehensive reform. All were represented at the “Gang of Eight” press conference — although all were missing from the National Review cover photo. Farmers, dairymen, ranchers, and small-business owners (the Fortune 500 do not employ many undocumented workers) have made this a top priority. Republican governors — the future of the GOP — are enthusiastic; next-generation conservative leaders such as Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Senator Rand Paul, and Representative Paul Ryan have taken a leadership role in this fight.
For 30 years the Heritage Foundation was a strong supporter of the Reagan-Kemp pro-immigration position. Heritage senior fellow Julian Simon wrote a timeless report, “Nine Myths About Immigration,” knocking down the left/labor-union/green/population-control arguments against immigration. Heritage hosted a debate in which Simon crushed a Roger Conner of the restrictionist Federation for American Immigration Reform. In 2006, Heritage published a serious study, co-authored by Tim Kane and Kirk Johnson, that concluded immigration is a net positive for the economy. Immigration has changed over time, but the economic benefits remain.
Heritage now stands alone as a free-market group that switched sides in this debate in 2007. But their analysis shows the absence of real arguments against the Rubio reform.
Watch for these errors to be repeated in the debate to come.
The United States has an entitlement structure (Social Security and Medicare) that is unsustainable, with trillions in unfunded liabilities. On average, every baby born today will receive more in benefits than he pays in taxes for both Social Security and Medicare. This is trotted out as an argument against immigration. It is actually a stronger argument against having children who are more numerous and arrive much younger, less talented and less fluent in English than most immigrants. This logic argues for more abortions. If we as a nation do not reform Medicare — as the Paul Ryan budget does — we go bankrupt. This is an argument for entitlement reform, not an argument against more children or more immigrants.
We need to pass the Paul Ryan budget that fixes entitlements and welfare to reduce total government spending as a percentage of the economy. Why would anyone distract from this consensus Republican position? It has earned the support of nearly every Republican in Congress since 2010.
We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can reform immigration to strengthen the American economy. And we can expand school choice for all American families, improving the quality of education while reducing its costs. And we will pass the Ryan budget as soon as we have a Republican Senate and White House.
Let’s focus on winning the future and leave Malthus and labor-union and green economics on the trash heap of history.
— Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.