Rob Horowitz: Immigration Reform Moves to the Front Burner

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


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As the old cliché goes, elections have consequences. This week’s action on immigration reform show that these words still ring true. A bi-partisan group of Senators unveiled their comprehensive immigration reform proposal yesterday and today President Obama puts forward his own similar proposal and at an event in Las Vegas.

The bright prospects for the adoption of comprehensive immigration reform this year is a direct result of the 2012 election. President Obama defeated Mitt Romney 71% to 27% among Latino voters. Further, Latinos comprised more than one-in-10 voters in the 2012 Presidential election—a percentage that is only going to increase in the future.

As one of the leaders in this new effort to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, Senator John McCain (R-AZ ) said this past Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, “Well, I'll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election... We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons."

McCain was joined over the weekend in his support for comprehensive immigration reform by Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate and influential House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI). This underscores a broad and marked shift by Republican elected officials who now realize that the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric of this past year’s Republican Presidential primaries combined with standing in the way of immigration reform measures are a recipe for continuing to lose national elections.

Both the bi-partisan Senate legislation and the President’s proposal contain a path to citizenship for the 11 million or so immigrants here in this country illegally, enabling them to emerge from the shadows, incorporate the Dream Act providing a quicker and more sure path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came here as children, expand the number of visas available for highly skilled workers, and provide for tough border security and stronger visa rules enforcement, among other provisions.

The adoption of this kind of comprehensive reform—which sends a welcoming message to the world’s best and brightest—would be a major step forward in ensuring long-term American economic competitiveness. According to Professor Richard Florida, author of one of the best books about what generates economic growth, The Rise of the Creative Class, immigrants generate 25% of our global patents and comprise nearly 1/2 of our science and engineering PHD's.

In a world where capital is mobile, the skills, talents and education levels of a nation’s workforce are the largest determinants of standard of living. Given that many nations have caught up to or surpassed us in educational achievement, the ability to attract talented immigrants is critical to our future economic success.

Immigrants have revitalized our nation throughout our history, bringing new ideas and economic energy. And because “elections have consequences”, we are poised once more to put in place the policies that serve our enlightened self-interest—making us a beacon to the world’s talented strivers and renewing the bright promise of the American Dream.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.



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