Tags: GOP | immigration | Obama

More (Legal) Immigration Please!

Tuesday, 15 Sep 2009 09:17 AM

By Christopher Ruddy

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In the coming months Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are planning “immigration reform” legislation.

Perhaps the Republicans in Congress could offer their own reform plan.

If the GOP is to make a serious, long-lasting comeback, it has to change its image from being the “party of no.”

Step one: Become the pro-immigration party — the party of yes, you, too, can make it in America.

Immigrants who come to our shores are seeking opportunity. For a long time, the Republican Party was considered the party of opportunity. After all, Lincoln was the first Republican president.

It's a myth that the GOP is the party of the “rich.” Did you know that Barack Obama beat John McCain among wealthy voters last year? Exit polls showed that 52 percent of voters who earn $200,000 a year or more voted Democratic in 2008. You might call them the guilty rich.

Wayne Allyn Root, author of "Millionaire Republican," has noted that Republicans aren't necessarily rich — they are just people who would like to become rich, to share in the American dream.

There are so many myths about Republicans, who they are and what they believe.

For example, it's another myth that the GOP opposed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. In fact, 82 percent of Republicans in the Senate and 80 percent in the House voted for the bill, while Southern Democrats opposed the bill by a 20-to-1 ratio in the Senate.

With demographics changing so quickly, this myth about immigration and the GOP is troublesome for the party’s political fortunes. It long has been claimed that Republicans oppose immigration.

This simply is not true. It was Republican Ronald Reagan who pushed for and signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted legal residency to 2.7 million illegal aliens already in the United States.

As one who has my finger on the pulse of folks in the heartland through Newsmax.com, I can see reactions minute by minute, click by click, and I know Republicans don't oppose immigration. They do oppose illegal immigration and porous borders. They are angry that we can’t control our borders in a post 9/11 world. They are furious that taxpayers can’t get basic government services, but illegals can.

Back in 2005, I called for a substantial increase in legal immigration. You might think my audience would be indignant about that call. Instead, I got an overwhelmingly positive response.

Today it's estimated that there are at least 12 million illegal aliens in the United States, with an average of 500,000 entering the country each year. Meanwhile, the flow of legal immigrants now stands at about 650,000 a year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

The plan I outlined in 2005 was simple. First, we must secure the borders, not just for economic reasons but for national security concerns as well.

Second, and only after the borders are secured, we open the United States dramatically to legal immigration, perhaps allowing as many as 3 million to 4 million new immigrants into the country.

We can't do this in helter-skelter fashion and welcome anyone who chooses to come here. Instead we put would-be immigrants to the test to see what they offer us. We open the United States to the world's best and brightest: scientists, engineers, doctors, artists, researchers, and others who have demonstrated excellence. And less-skilled applicants could be offered positions in the military or public service that would put them on the path toward citizenship.

We should open the doors to new citizens from every continent, of every race and creed, and drain the world of some of its best minds. This would make America a more competitive nation, and a stronger one, too.

There are good reasons to adopt this policy. The United States, in short, needs new people. In 1950, there were 16.5 workers for each Social Security beneficiary. That ratio fell to 3.4 by 2000. By the time the last of America's 77 million boomers retire in 2030, there will be only two covered workers per beneficiary. That will place tremendous strain on not only Social Security but also Medicare.

Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff has observed that an aging population with extended life span will require benefits that far exceed the capacity of workers to pay for them.

"The Coming Generational Storm," which Kotlikoff co-authored, estimates that the United States would need from 4 million to 6.5 million immigrants each year between 2010 and 2030 to deal with the demographic shortfall and bring the numbers of workers and beneficiaries more into balance.

There's no doubt the GOP can champion the cause of a wise immigration policy and become the party of not only opportunity but also “yes” as well.

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