Many of our fellow Republicans aren’t sure what to think of the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill being debated in the U.S. Senate. As former chairs of the New Hampshire Republican Party, we support the modernization effort led by conservative leaders, including U.S. Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio, and think the plan deserves backing from other Republicans, too.
The Gang of Eight bill increases the number of legal, skilled immigrants, helping high-tech employers such as Merrimack’s GT Advanced Technologies hire the engineers they need to grow our economy and create jobs for other Americans. It re-establishes a guest worker program that will benefit New Hampshire apple growers and ski areas that depend on seasonal laborers. And it provides provisional legal status — but not necessarily citizenship — to 11 million undocumented people, thousands of whom live among us as neighbors.
We know Americans want improved border security, and this bill includes that. But the most effective way to curb illegal immigration is to make it easier for people to immigrate legally. Give people a choice between a legal path and an illegal path, and they will choose the legal one. Visa reform and a guest worker program will channel legal immigrants, letting us know who and where they are, while freeing security efforts to focus on violent criminals, drug traffickers, potential terrorists and visitors who overstay their visas.
We’ve heard some say that immigrants take jobs away from Americans. We suppose one could argue that David Ortiz, who is from the Dominican Republic, does take a job away from an American who would gladly DH for the Red Sox. When professional sports teams search the world for the best players, get them visas, and put their skills to work in America, we consider that the free market at work. The same principle should apply for the world’s best engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs.
If you believe immigrants take jobs away from others, then you’d also have to believe that women took jobs away from other Americans when they joined the workforce in large numbers. Of course, that’s not what happened. The addition of tens of millions of women to our workforce grew our economy and raised the standard of living for all Americans.
Immigrants have the same effect on our economy. They are consumers, giving our businesses more customers and making your home more valuable. They are disproportionately entrepreneurs who start companies. An example is India native Marian Noronha, recently named New Hampshire Entrepreneur of the Year by the state High Tech Council for his work growing Barrington’s Turbocam into one of the Seacoast’s biggest employers.
We’ve heard others complain that immigrants come to the U.S. to go on welfare. This is simply not true. Undocumented people are not eligible for federal welfare programs, food stamps, or Social Security or Medicare either. If you think too many people are eligible for government support, then take Milton Friedman’s suggestion: Build a wall around the welfare system, not the country.
Those are policy reasons why we support the bipartisan Gang of Eight proposal. Now let us mention why we think supporting immigration reform is in the political interests of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
Mitt Romney lost Hispanic voters by 3:1 last fall, and Hispanics are a rapidly growing demographic. That’s true in New Hampshire, too. If our party can’t earn support from Hispanics and other non-white voters, not only will Republicans not win future elections, we won’t deserve too, either.
We have faith in the ability of future Republican candidates to connect our party’s limited government, pro-freedom philosophy to improving the lives of all Americans. If conservatives doubt the breadth of that message’s appeal, then we’ve already lost the next election.
Ronald Reagan noticed that kids growing up in Dixon, Ill., or Danville, N.H., don’t dream of a better life overseas. He understood that immigration is proof of American exceptionalism, that which makes America different from and better than so many other countries.
Supporting immigration reform is good policy. For Republicans, it’s also good politics.
Steve Duprey, John Stabile, Wayne Semprini, Fergus Cullen and Wayne MacDonald are all former chairmen on the New Hampshire Republican Party. Duprey currently represents New Hampshire on the Republican National Committee.