Post-Election, Prospects for Immigration Reform Improve

Following a lengthy hiatus that spanned the seemingly-endless campaign season, GOP opinion leaders like Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) are once again raising their voices in support of comprehensive immigration reform, joining Republican luminaries like Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich, and conservative commentator Sean Hannity in calling for quick and decisive action on this issue. In a recent televised interview, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) expressed confidence that a bipartisan solution could be found in the near future. [See The Political Inevitability of Immigration Reform, Editorial, Bloomberg News. 08.Nov.2012.] Why the renewed interest in this topic?

After impressive gains at the mid-term elections, the GOP took a thrashing this time out, in part because it failed to win over an increasingly influential segment of the electorate – Latino voters, who turned out in force to put President Obama over the top. The election results signaled a seismic demographic shift, undeniable as it is unstoppable. In coming to terms with these results, many leading Republicans have reached the same conclusion: that any party hoping to win national elections had better find a way to appeal to Latino voters, and their growing electoral clout. Other immigrant groups are also growing and their political influence is gaining traction, as well.

Properly understood, comprehensive immigration reform should appeal to the most business-friendly elements of the GOP, because it’s likely to include more visas and green cards for foreign knowledge workers with state-of-the-art skills in science, technology, engineering, and math – the so-called “STEM” fields. [See Election May Force Congress to Act on Tech Immigration, by Patrick Thibodeau, Computerworld blogs, 07.Nov.2012.] These workers help American high-tech industries to maintain their global edge.

Early indications are that Congress will try to pick up where it left off, more than two years ago, when bipartisan talks broke down. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have resuscitated the consensus document they created in the spring of 2010, laying out the broad outlines of legislation we might expect to see in the coming year:

“The Graham and Schumer plan has four components: requiring high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; strengthening border security and enforcement of immigration laws; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a path to legal status for immigrants already in the country.” [See Bipartisan Immigration Reform Back on the Table, by Reuters, Christian Science Monitor. 11.Nov.2012.]

When Senators Schumer and Graham first introduced their blueprint in March 2010, both expressed a clear understanding that our economic security is just as important as our national security, and proposed granting automatic green cards to foreign STEM grads who earn their masters’ degrees or Ph.D.s in the United States. [See Schumer-Graham Blueprint – What’s in It? MurthyBlog. 24.Mar.2010.] Two years on, pressure to solve the STEM problem has only increased, which hopefully will push things forward in Congress.

With the “fiscal cliff” still looming over all other legislative business, it may be well into 2013 before we will see much progress on immigration reform. One hopes Congress will not lose its sense of urgency in the meantime. Our readers will be kept apprised of important developments as this story unfolds.

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