Bipartisan Act Addresses Nation’s Immigration Woes

Monday, 28 Nov 2011 01:35 PM

By James Walsh

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Freshmen U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Chris Coons, D-Del., have exercised the unusual for Capitol Hill in this legislative session. On Nov. 15, they joined forces to introduce a bill that addresses job-creating needs, small business needs, research and development tax credit needs, veterans’ needs, and, yes, immigration needs.

Titled the American Growth, Recovery, Empowerment, and Entrepreneurship Act, or the AGREE Act (S-1866), their bill is described by Rubio as “a meaningful step to find common ground and create a better environment for job creators to start a business or expand existing ones.”

Rubio and Coons will need to overcome the opposition of President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and those radical-left Democrats who are against any legislative progress this year.

The president apparently prefers to run for re-election against a “do-nothing Congress” (as did Harry Truman) to hide the record of the Obama administration.

Rubio and Coons are young men of solid accomplishments. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, is a graduate of the University of Florida and the University of Miami Law School. He was elected speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 2006 at the age of 35.

Chris Coons graduated from Amherst College, Yale Divinity School, and Yale Law School. He was active in humanitarian efforts in Africa and the United States before being elected to the U.S. Senate.

The AGREE Act incorporates components of two current House of Representatives bills. The first of these is the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (HR 3012), sponsored by Congressmen Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

Democrat co-sponsors of HR 3012 are Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and recently four liberal Democrat House members joined on as sponsors. HR 3012 would amend the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) by increasing employment-based and family-sponsored immigrants.

In addition, the Keating-Hanna bill (HR 3476), introduced by William Keating, D-Mass., and Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., is similar to the AGREE Act but does not address immigration. These three bills will need to be merged in a Senate-House Conference.

The Senate AGREE Act has nine provisions that would accomplish the following economy-boosting measures:
  • Provide a 3-year extension of the bonus depreciation for the full cost of qualified investments — such as equipment and property.
  • Extend three expensing levels for small businesses — allowing businesses to expense job-creating investments.
  • Provide a 3-year extension of eliminated taxes on certain small business stock.
  • Extend the Research & Development tax credit to 2013.
  • Establish an enhanced research credit for domestic manufacturers to encourage U.S. job creation.
  • Provide a tax credit for veterans equal to 25 percent of the fee associated with starting a franchise up to $100,000. The home states of Rubio and Coons have approximately 1.75 million veterans.
  • Provide a 5-year exemption from Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which put the onerous cost of audit requirements on small public companies, thus dampening small company growth.
  • Eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrant visas and adjust the limitations on family-based visa petitions from 7 percent per country to 15 percent.
  • Protect intellectual property by clarifying that the Trade Secrets Act does not criminalize the actions of federal officials who, in the performance of their duties, share information about trade infringements.
Among opponents of the AGREE Act are those Hispanics who believe it would negatively impact their visa applications. Sponsors and supporters of the bill respond that the legislation has no country preference, just talent preference.

Other opponents, disregarding the nation’s intellectual needs, complain that multiculturalism will be harmed by the bill’s discrimination against lesser-skilled applicants.

Others complain that the AGREE Act will discriminate against unemployed U.S. citizens, especially those who do not have degrees in math, science, and high technology.

Meanwhile, the U.S. public education system continues to be the victim of a dumbing-down, competition-is-bad, and everybody-is-equal mentality.

The immigration aspect of the AGREE Act, without increasing the total number of available immigrant visas or changing present visa requirements, gives preference to applicants with advanced degrees and high-tech skills.

U.S. business communities, large and small, support this change, although there is opposition by visa applicants who claim the bill will give preference to Indian and Chinese applicants who lead in math and science degrees.

Supporters argue that the bill is fair and allows greater flexibility for visas — attracting bright and engaging applicants, regardless of country of origin, while keeping present immigration caps in place.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that the AGREE Act would pay for itself and would not significantly affect the number of immigrants entering the United States.

The AGREE Act is meant to jump-start our failing economy, to attack the Washington legislative gridlock, and to overcome the ideological myopia permeating the Obama White House.

Nevertheless, look for the Obama regime, which does not tolerate independent thinking, to overtly and covertly seek to derail the bipartisan AGREE Act.

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