A Path to Citizenship for Entrepreneurs: GOP Senator21 May 2010
A leading Republican Senator, Richard Lugar of Indiana, has proposed legislation that would give two-year visas to immigrant entrepreneurs who can attract at least $250,000 from U.S. investors to start companies here. (See Lugar Wants Citizenship Path for Entrepreneurs, by Maureen Groppe, Gannett Washington Bureau, Journal & Courier (Indiana), 10.May.2010.) According to the Journal and Courier, a newspaper in Senator Lugar’s home state of Indiana, the legislation would grant green cards to these immigrant entrepreneurs if they can provide five or more full-time jobs in the United States and generate $1 million in revenue or attract $1 million in additional investment over the first two years.
While this is not a bad idea on the face of it, one can’t help but wonder why a senior GOP senator can only muster enthusiasm for very limited reforms such as these – and one wonders this especially in the case of Senator Lugar, an erstwhile supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. One might expect a man in his position to have grander ambitions.
To be fair, the same goes for Senator John McCain, once a courageous advocate for CIR, who now is reduced to making folksy campaign commercials, demanding that immigration authorities “complete the danged fence!” on the border. (See About-Face on Immigration Reflects Sen. John McCain’s Challenge, by Dan Nowicki, The Arizona Republic, 14.May.2010.) As the Arizona Republic article observes, Senator McCain went from being a maverick, unafraid to buck the conventional wisdom of his party, to the spitting image of “the border hardliners he used to ridicule.”
At a time when CIR efforts have largely ground to a halt for lack of bipartisan support, the good news is that at least one Republican senator is showing an interest in improving our immigration system. The bad news is that such piecemeal reform measures would likely crowd out comprehensive immigration reform this year. If Senator Lugar’s measure were to pass this year, its supporters would doubtless congratulate themselves on taking the first bold steps toward beginning to prepare for the eventual launch of comprehensive immigration reform – some year in the future. It’s a great idea to encourage immigrant entrepreneurship, but make no mistake: mere tinkering with the immigration system is no substitute for the major overhaul we so desperately need.