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The hard truth: America will benefit from a sensible immigration policy

The hard truth: America will benefit from a sensible immigration policy
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With the immigration issue again grabbing headlines and major votes on “Dreamers” and farm workers imminent in the House of Representatives, it is an opportune time for elected officials and policymakers to work on bipartisan solutions. For the rest of America, it is a reminder of the harm done to the country when lawmakers abdicate that responsibility.

The hard truth of the multifaceted immigration debate is that a modern, orderly and efficient process for legal immigration is by far the best remedy for reducing illegal immigration and enhancing border security. Border enforcement should be more about protecting us from genuine threats such as drug smuggling, not families looking for the same opportunity that millions of immigrants to America also once sought, and not children fleeing starvation, conflict and violence.

Dealing with this reality is more constructive than cynically using the current border situation as an excuse to do nothing — or worse, to lean into scapegoating, lying and demonizing immigrants for perceived, but illusory, political benefit.

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While Republicans in Congress can and should act as a reasonable check on President BidenJoe BidenDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Sasse to introduce legislation giving new hires signing bonuses after negative jobs report Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE’s agenda, they also should not reject working toward consensus. Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLindsey Graham: GOP can't 'move forward without President Trump' House to advance appropriations bills in June, July The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-S.C.) and Dick DurbinDick DurbinAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction MORE (D-Ill.), for example, sit far apart on the political spectrum but they both cosponsor the Dream Act, a bill that would establish earned legal status for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who have not broken the law. A lack of congressional action has resulted in a segment of this population using the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created by former President Obama through executive action

The Dream Act makes sense morally and economically. As a Reagan conservative and first-generation American, I recognize the valuable contributions of immigrants. America’s 800,000 DACA recipients, in particular, benefit our national budget, wage growth, GDP and job market. Over the next decade, DACA recipients are projected to add $433 billion to the American economy. The DACA-eligible population pays $3.1 billion in state and local taxes, and $5.7 billion in federal taxes. They contribute almost $2 billion to Social Security and almost $470 million to Medicare every year. 

Immigrants in general have a higher workforce participation rate than their native-born counterparts. Almost one-fifth of all self-employed Americans are immigrants, and 3.2 million immigrant entrepreneurs are working toward the American Dream. 

It is of little mystery why nearly 75 percent of all voters now support a constructive immigration reform measure such as the Dream Act.

For the critical agriculture sector, more Republicans would do well to follow in the steps of Reps. David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoFive takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks Republicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Valadao gives Gaetz donation to victims of abuse MORE (R-Calif.), Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-Wash.), Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Overnight Energy: Progressives fear infrastructure's climate plans won't survive Senate | EPA to propose vehicle emissions standards by July's end | Poll shows growing partisan divide on climate change House Republicans who backed Trump impeachment warn Democrats on Iowa election challenge MORE (R-Wash.) and others who have co-sponsored the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA).

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The FWMA would establish legal status to current farm workers and their families who provide stability and contribute to the communities where they live and work, as well as expand and streamline the H-2A visa process — changes that, on balance, make sense for the entire country.

Worth noting is that, several years ago, Georgia and other states embraced the opposite, restrictionist approach. The result was a painful, twofold lesson: first with the law of unintended consequences, and second with a refresher in basic economics. Instead of non-immigrants lining up for agricultural jobs, all Georgians were negatively impacted by huge labor shortages, tens of millions of dollars lost in crops, hundreds of millions of dollars in economic damage, and spikes in prices to consumers. 

The simplistic claim that simply decreasing the supply of immigrant labor will lead to increased wages and more citizen employment fails to account for real-world immigrant contributions and economic conditions. As Texas Tech University economics professor Benjamin Powell has noted, “[Immigrants] don’t replace American workers so much as free them up to do other, typically more-skilled, things. This symbiotic relationship benefits immigrants and native-born alike.” Republicans would do well to remember that this dynamic is an essential advantage inherent in a free-market system, rather than recycling discredited talking points. 

With the recent surge of border crossings, Republicans seem enamored with traveling to the border to get media attention. Calling attention to challenges posed by the Biden administration’s policy changes is certainly valid — being blind to the root causes and the refusal to address them in good faith is, in contrast, ultimately self-defeating.

Data show that numbers for monthly encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border have fluctuated for years. In fact, they skyrocketed twice under former President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE’s policies — first in April 2019 and again during the summer of 2020. Changes to Title 42 under Trump had a different effect than intended (there is a theme here). The Cato Institute’s immigration policy expert Alex Nowrasteh explains: “Expulsions of illegal immigrants under Title 42 mean that illegal immigrants are turned back over the border almost immediately … incentivizes more illegal immigration by lowering the costs of crossing the border.” 

Those who agitate for the return of the humanitarian crisis caused by Trump and his policy adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerBiden fills immigration court with Trump hires Sunday shows preview: Biden hits the road to promote infrastructure proposals; US begins withdrawal from Afghanistan Trump speechwriter calls Biden address 'tedious' MORE’s commitment to separating children from their families are doubling down on a losing strategy.

A Gallup survey shows more respondents supporting an increase in immigration than in any previous Gallup poll over the past 55 years. Another record high: 77 percent responded that they believe immigration benefits the country. Even among Trump supporters the numbers increased by 13 percentage points compared to 2016. Similarly, on election night, 65 percent of respondents — including a majority of Republicans and white, evangelical Protestants — said they opposed Trump’s destructive family separation policies. Voters witnessed four years of demonization of immigrants. And they reject it. 

The facts about immigrants and broad support for constructive immigration policy that benefits Americans are unsurprising for anyone open to the truth. Immigrants come to work, support their families, make a difference in their communities, and contribute to keeping our country great.  Our elected officials should work together for practical long-term answers that support legal migration, focus on legitimate threats and provide huge economic benefits. That is what the American people want and deserve.

Mario H. Lopez is the president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a public policy advocacy organization that promotes liberty, opportunity, and prosperity for all Americans. Follow him on Twitter @MarioHLopez.