In an effort to retain the best and brightest college graduates, former Florida Sen. George LeMieux believes immigration reform should include permanent residency to immigrants who graduate from an American school.
In an interview with Newsmax TV, the Republican said he believes such a policy could reverse the loss of qualified talent and could help expand the nation’s economy.
“We’re not attracting anymore and we’re not retaining the best and brightest people around the world. We should be putting a green card in these folks’ diplomas when they graduate from our colleges,” LeMieux said. “Instead, we send them back to their home countries to benefit from the knowledge we gave them.”
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He also said Republicans and Democrats need to come together on a solution that provides a clear path to resolving the status for the more than 11 million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.
“To do nothing is to say it’s okay to be here illegally and that’s not a good default. We need to do something to fix the illegal immigration problem and put these folks on some kind of path. Some are going to have to go home, some will stay and work their way toward legality, but we also have to fix the legal immigration system,” he said.
LeMieux also addressed the ongoing budget fight between the Congress and the president, saying he believes the best way forward is one that puts the nation on a path that requires the approval of a balanced budget on a regular schedule.
“Revenues are up for the federal government because more people have jobs now, but we’re still going to spend anywhere from $600 [billion] to $800 billion more this year than we take in,” he said. “We’ve got to have some sensible people who are willing to make the cuts we need. No business has enjoyed the size of growth that the federal government has had over the past few years.”
Responding to some in the Republican Party who believe additional revenues should remain an option, LeMieux said streamlining government is the best course of action.
“We did raise taxes at the end of the year when the expiration of the Bush tax cuts occurred. The individual filing rate went to 39 percent from 35 percent for people who make more than $400,000 individually or $450,000 a year as a couple,” he said. “We don’t need to give this government more money, we need a more efficient government. There’s tremendous waste and fraud in the money that’s being spent now.”
The former senator is among those working to change Florida’s election law to require a runoff if no candidate in a primary wins at least 50 percent of the vote, a change he believes would result in better candidates.
“We no longer have a second primary in Florida. A second primary requires that if you don’t win 50 percent of the vote in the first, the top two vote getters go to a runoff and then the parties are more impactful,” he said. “Plus, you have majority rule, which is an essential part of democracy, not some plurality rule. It would be good for Florida and we’d get better candidates.”
Turning to national politics, LeMieux said it would be great for Florida to have either former Gov. Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio as the Republican presidential nominee in 2016. But like many political observers, he does not see both men making a run against each other in the next cycle.
“I would be very surprised, knowing their relationship, if we had both of them. Either one of them would be fantastic and would be a great representative,” he said. “We’ve never had a president from Florida and we’re the fourth biggest state, soon to be third largest in population when we pass New York. So it would be great for the Republican Party to have either Jeb or Marco as our nominee.”
The former senator is currently focused on the new LeMieux Center for Public Policy established at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
“We’re going to tackle some big research issues next year and have David Gergen and other speakers in. It’s going to be a great experience to work with these kids,” he said.
Like many Republicans, LeMieux sees a potential takeover of the Senate as a possibility next year, but one that will require a change in message.
“Certainly, there was a lot opportunity in 2012. We should have taken back the Senate. We had some very poor candidates across this country,” he said. “We, as Republicans, better start articulating a hopeful message for the people of this country of how America is going to improve them and their children. If we do that, we’ll win elections.”
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