Congressman Darrell Issa sees a way to boost economic prosperity in the San Diego region which he calls home and also, finally, dealing with a broken immigration system.
While many elected leaders to the House of Representatives question the offer of citizenship to people who have broken U.S. immigration laws, Issa appears to take a more reasoned approach to a situation which seems to have been exacerbated by the federal government’s lackluster efforts over the years at enforcing or reforming its own laws on the books, as well as previous offers of amnesty.
A story carried by the DallasNews states that Issa is among those in the GOP who have been working on possible legislation for immigration, and it also quotes Issa’s Florida colleague Mario Diaz-Balart as stating that the goal is to help the immigrants already here illegally to “get right with the law.”
The immigration issue seems to have become a real political drag for the GOP. But another nudge by President Barack Obama, whom the HuffingtonPost states won re-election with 70 percent Latino support, in tandem with a coalition of business, religious and law enforcement groups pushing for an overhaul of the broken system seems hard to ignore for any elected leader.
Three immigration-related bills, from an official Issa press release, reintroduced the issue earlier this year. Issa said his intention was to “improve American competitiveness, encourage those who enter our country legally to stay, and impose criminal sentencing for those who enter our country after having been removed.” They are:
- STEM, HR #459: Allows 55,000 visas per year for foreign students receiving advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
- FALLEN HEROES, HR #458: Grants temporary nonimmigrant status to a surviving, foreign national parent or permanent guardian of a U.S. citizen child born outside of the United States when the deceased parent was an active-duty service member of the U.S. military.
- Criminal Alien Accountability Act, HR #457: Imposes mandatory sentencing for aliens who reenter the United States after having been deported for previous crimes committed in the United States.
Trying to convince people of the need for a practical balance of economic and security-related issues in the discussion on immigration reform, Issa argues for changes which he believes would make the region globally competitive. He states on his website:
“Any comprehensive immigration reform has to make sense for the U.S. economy, and that means making sure our system prioritizes workers who can fill or create much needed jobs. Some of our country’s biggest industries are driven by immigrants, and we should do everything we can to facilitate growth and innovation in those sectors so that we stay globally competitive. Immigration has always been part of our national framework, and a smart, sustainable immigration policy would be a win-win for U.S. citizens and foreign-born Americans alike.”
Agriculture and Technology
The fact is that 44 percent of San Diegan children “have at least one immigrant parent,” Issa states. Add that to the current status that San Diego is “home to the two sectors that most illustrate the need for reform: agriculture and technology” and the idea to be globally competitive is an important idea from the elected official.
Issa states that agriculture is “a vital part of our region’s heritage and adds more than $5 billion to the county’s economy each year.”
Regarding this, he further believes that since many of the farms are “small and family owned,” they depend on seasonal labor … to help with each new crop.”
That seasonal labor is primarily immigrants, says the Congressman.
“The same is true throughout America. If we want to remain an agricultural leader, we must recognize that temporary workers, and the visas that allow them to work here legally, are a permanent need. Otherwise, this work, which when done within our borders creates jobs for American citizens, faces the prospect of outsourcing.”
Regarding the tech industry, Issa compares the San Diego region to Silicon Valley:
“San Diego also is like a southern Silicon Valley. Telecom giants, innovative startups and great universities all call the city home and all rely on high-skilled, foreign-born workers with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees. Often these students are educated at American universities, which attract the best and brightest students from around the world. Our immigration system should encourage these students to legally stay in the U.S. after college to start businesses, create jobs and add to our growing technology sector.”
As 25 percent of high-tech startups are founded by immigrants, Issa believes more can be done to foster the “spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.”
“We should … keep innovative job creators working in places like California.”
The current immigration structure, Issa believes, cannot keep up with demand.
“In 2011, more than 1 million people became green-card holders, bringing the number of legal permanent residents to an estimated 13.3 million. Many of these green-card allocations, however, are not distributed in ways that help our economy or unify the immediate family members of key immigrant contributors.”
Global competitors, states Issa, prioritize the majority of their visas based on professional skills and education. Nations such as Australia and the United Kingdom are examples he says. Issa also adds:
“… only 12 percent of U.S. visas are prioritized that way. H-1B visas for high-skilled workers are extremely sought after but face strict caps that limit their availability. Last year, we reached the H-1B cap in just 5 days.”