We need people: centrist immigration reforms

Even though immigration doesn’t have much of an impact on Wisconsin, the Republican Party here and across the country has decided to make the southern border its Number 1 issue in the 2024 election.

Due to lower birth rates and very low in-migration, Wisconsin has more than 170,000 job openings. Our unemployment rate has been below 3%, which means we are at full employment.

Hey, people! Get a grip! We need more good people! Lots more!

Our economic growth is being hampered by worker shortages. Even Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s biggest business lobby, which usually acts as a wing of the Wisconsin GOP, says so.

Long and short, there is room for a bunch of competent immigrants and families here – 8.8 million open job in the country. That’s just reality, despite recent anti-immigrant bigotry.

How can Americans forget that we are a nation of immigrants?

Two of my great grandfathers and one great grandmother came from Ukraine and Poland. They were looking for prosperity, never to be available to them at home. They contributed mightily here as entrepreneurs, who, with their sons, started and built companies with several hundred employees. They prospered in short order, and so did everyone around them.

Here are some policies from a group of centrists I interact with that should find common ground with American citizens:

  • Finish the wall that Donald Trump never did. Build only where it will be effective. Remove that issue from political rhetoric.
  • Raise legal immigration back to 1 million per year. Base entry to the United States on needed skills. We have allowed in about 770,000 on average in the last three years. We are turning away 1.4 million per year.
  • Toughen up on asylum credentials and hire staff in big numbers to quickly process asylum cases and to reject fake applications. Eliminate poverty as a justification.
  • Forget massive deportation of illegal workers who have been here for more than five years if they are gainfully employed. Our dairy industry especially needs them. Give them green cards, but never citizenship. Massive deportation of millions of people just ain’t going to happen. The logistics are prohibitive.
  • Give priority to Ukrainian refugees.
  • Despite Rep. Glenn Grothman’s position, follow the U.S. Constitution and provide citizenship for children born here. We’ve educated them, and we need their brain power.
  • Create a guest worker permit to allow needed employees to enter and then go back home and then return and go back home again. Such a policy has worked in the past, especially for seasonal work in the tourism and farm industries.
  • Grant citizenship to foreign students who earn degrees here in needed fields, especially in STEM, IT and medical. We subsidize their degrees; let’s get a payback. The program would be a magnet for the brightest foreign students who want to become U.S. citizens. In the short term, they will pay high tuition fees and add enrollment, which our colleges are desperate for.
  • Provide federal grants to communities like Whitewater that are working to accommodate a surge of legal immigrants. That community is absorbing 800 to 1000 newcomers, most from Nicaragua who don’t speak English. Schools, food pantries, police units, non-profit support groups need additional resources to provide a soft landing in a community of only about 15, 000.
  • Emphasize placement in the many available jobs. Add resources for teaching English, citizenship classes and low-cost shelters. Local people and organizations have been generous with their resources, according to a Journal-Sentinel report, but more funding is needed.

Cynics of all stripes contend that President Biden actually wants open borders to create more liberal voters. I doubt that. The flood of potential immigrants knocking on our doors is damaging him politically.

Other cynics contend that Republicans really don’t want to solve the border crisis, that they want use it as a winning issue in the 2024 election. The stunt pulled by GOP Speaker Mike Johnson in his visit to the border with 70 GOP congress members is fodder for that jaded view.

Republicans could win more votes with a pragmatic immigration program that makes sense to the moderates in both parties.

I am not optimistic that centrist solutions will be adopted in the highly partisan political climate that is today’s hallmark.

The two parties can’t even agree in their own ranks on comprehensive immigration reform.

This entry was posted in Immigration. Bookmark the permalink.