The future of American Exceptionalism lies in immigration reform

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In her article, Governor Granholm stated, "In order to keep America competitive — in order
to remain “exceptional” — we must leverage the key strand of our national DNA: our global diversity....Our blend of people and cultures and talent and perspectives can keep us the strongest, the smartest, the most advanced nation on Earth — if we have the right immigration policies."


This statement dovetails nicely with something that I wrote in my article, "E Pluribus Unum is
 a tenet of American Exeptionalism, and a nation divided against itself, in which we have two classes of people; legal and illegal, those in the light of day, and those in the shadows of society – divides us and therefore weakens and rends the moral and social fabric of America – thus rendering us less exceptional."

While the governor's argument focuses primarily on the economic advantages of immigration that are fundamental to the notion of Exceptionalism - something that as a former and longtime business owner I can appreciate and agree with - my own article dealt more specifically with the moral obligations of reforming our broken immigration system that are inherent in the Exceptionalism ideal. I wrote, "We owe it to our nation to never accept policies that are less than exceptional, and especially those policies that detract from the very values that make us great, and contribute to America’s moral authority....an exceptional solution will position our nation to craft a solution that is worthy of our values, yet also respects our bedrock principals
of rule of law, justice, democracy and freedom – freedom of enterprise and markets, freedom
of religion and the pursuit of happiness, and freedom from oppression and the overreach of government....An exceptional solution unites us spiritually, as it unites us economically, socially, morally, and in our determination as we strive to make America better – always better."

However, I will concede that Governor Granholm's elevation - in terms of Exceptionalism - of the economic argument for immigration reform may prove prescient. In point of fact, the greatest obstacle to our obtaining a comprehensive immigration reform will more likely be the issue of economics, and not the issue of "amnesty." In fact, I would venture to say that in the many meetings that I and my Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform partners have had with conservative legislators on the Hill, it is the prospect of dealing with organized labor, and not the tricky issue of an earned legalization for many of the undocumented immigrants that is most worrisome to them.

Part and parcel of the upcoming debate on immigration reform will be the subject of the future flow of immigrants. Conservatives are for legal immigration, but they are particularly concerned that our nation must have the need for future immigrants be determined by the free market, as opposed to an arbitrary cap – which is the system that got us into the illegal immigration mess that we find ourselves in now – or even by the idea of a politically appointed commission tasked with setting annual caps on immigration.

It may very well be that at some point in the future, we will once again experience an economic downturn, similar perhaps to the recession that we are just now emerging from. During that time, it may be that we will have little need for new immigrant workers. A truly free market mechanism would be able to adjust our immigration levels to meet demand - no more, and no less. Likewise, should we find ourselves poised for future economic growth, our immigration levels should accurately reflect that market reality. That would be the exceptional solution.

However, I caution that the truly exceptional solution will always put the needs of Americans first. The exceptional immigration solution will be one that puts American workers ahead of any potential immigrant workers. Our current system is wrought with fraud, and often American workers are not hired before immigrant workers - often at lower wages - are hired. An exceptional immigration system would weed that type of abuse out of the system.
Ultimately, in order for our economy to continue lead the world, we will need an abundance of new workers. Most of these workers will be "home grown," but many will come through legal immigration. Even with an exceptional immigration system, we will need seasonal or temporary workers to truly maximize our economic potential. Therefore, the truly exceptional immigration solution will allow for a tenable and user friendly guest worker program.

Finally, I sincerely see America as that shining city on a hill. That is how President Reagan viewed the concept of American Exceptionalism. However, here we are three decades  later. The ideal of American Exceptionalism endures. I want to see it endure for my children and grandchildren. An exceptional immigration solution will be a step in the right direction. And if, perhaps, we should hear the occasional sounds of Latin music emanating from that city on a hill.....well, why not? I'll close with a thought from my earlier article on Exceptionalism; "American Exceptionalism has always been our birthright, but protecting the future of American Exceptionalism must always be our sacred responsibility."

Gittelson is president and co-founder of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.