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Your Turn NH: GOP needs to back immigration reform

January 17. 2016 5:55PM

I MOVED to the United States from India in 1968, with a mere $5 in my pocket. Such was my starting point. I was nervous but also excited that my dreams would come true in this country. With hard work and dedication, I built a company, GT Solar, from the ground up, hired many local American citizens and immigrants and have enjoyed professional success. I am now a U.S. Citizen for the last 30 years. I am CEO of ARC Energy, a major employer in my area. I am blessed and truly appreciative.

Immigration made America exceptional. It continues to make America exceptional. It is my story, and the story of many who live and work in New Hampshire today. We must remember our roots, especially when debating immigration reform.

The primary season is here, and the Republican candidates are still avoiding the tough questions when it comes to immigration reform. Six debates have come and gone without real solutions to our broken immigration system. Where are the detailed, realistic plans for dealing with the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in America? And where are the concrete, viable proposals for fixing our visa programs for seasonal laborers and skilled workers? It is time for the concerned citizens of this country to start pressing the candidates to answer these difficult questions.

Mass deportation is not an option. It would cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and slam the economy. It would necessitate the expansion of federal policing powers to an extent that would threaten the civil liberties of American citizens. And it would dampen the light of the American spirit. The breaking down of thousands of doors in the middle of the night would forever alter the country’s character.

New Hampshire is pioneering the push for serious and nuanced discussion of immigration reform. Over the past few months, business leaders and members of the Granite Staters for Common Sense Immigration Reform (GSCSIR), a grassroots coalition, have been hosting roundtables across the state.

Recently, Jason Sullivan, an accomplished Portsmouth-based immigration attorney, presented personal accounts of clients and outlined complications hurting the current immigration system. Dawn Wivell, representative to the International Trade Advisory Committee, spoke about international trade and the positive impact that would result from meaningful reform.

Increasingly, the Republican candidates have to start seeing undocumented immigrants through a conservative lens. Treating them as a faceless horde violates the conservative philosophy’s core principle of regarding people as individuals.

Those living here are an untapped source of human potential. They can further advance the American story, continuing a narrative that’s vibrant and dynamic, not monochrome and static. It’s the responsibility of our elected officials then to delineate strategies that match founding principles with opportunities.

With the media circus involving mass deportation, the candidates have been able to circumvent a vital component of immigration reform: fixing the legal channels for entry.

Of particular concern to New Hampshire is the need for the simplification and expansion of the H-1B visa program. High-tech companies like mine rely on these visas to recruit skilled workers. They help preserve America’s status as the global leader in innovation. As such, they also sustain and invigorate the domestic economy.

American companies that have opted to stay here rather than move overseas should be rewarded, not punished. They should have unfettered access to the free market of ideas. Similarly, the international community’s best and brightest should be welcomed, not shunned. They are choosing to dedicate their unique talents to America. We want them investing their ability and ambition here, not in India, China, and Russia.

There’s no doubt that immigration reform would be a significant plus for New Hampshire, as well as for the rest of the country. The only question that remains: Which candidate possesses the courage and the vision to make it happen?

Other states would benefit from following GSCSIR’s lead in expanding the public conversation. And short of that, voters must simply step up to the microphone at town halls and demand that the candidates get specific. Let them know that there are no shortcuts to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Kedar Gupta is CEO of ARC Energy and a member of Granite Staters for Common Sense Immigration Reform.

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