In a welcome gesture, on December 4th Speaker Boehner hired Senator McCain’s long time immigration advisor and Director of Immigration Policy of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) – Rebbeca Tallent. In a press release on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s website, Jason Grumet, BPC’s president was very positive in summing up his view of Ms. Tallent’s role: “The House is going to continue to chart its own course on immigration reform. Becky understands the issues – both those that should be on the table and those that have derailed past reform efforts.” He further added, “Becky’s recent experience forging solutions among BPC’s diverse task force members will serve her and Speaker Boehner well in the months ahead. She will be a crucial resource in crafting legislation that can pass the House and be signed by the president.”
Mr. Boehner told reporters recently, “The American people are skeptical of big, comprehensive bills, and frankly, they should be.” He then went on to explain himself, “The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time. I think doing so will give the American people confidence that we’re dealing with these issues in a thoughtful way and a deliberative way.” (From “Boehner Is Said to Back Change on Immigration,” dated, January 2, 2014, Page A1 NY Times, New York edition).
It would appear this is the right time to press local congresspersons (read Republican Congresspersons) on ‘legal’ immigration reform since House Republicans are scheduled for a retreat later this month to discuss strategy and come up with what could be the Republican strategy going into the mid-term elections. According to the NY Times article quoted above, “the most likely legislative approach, according to lawmakers, White House officials and activists, is a push to pass legislation in the House by May or June — after most Republican lawmakers are through with their primary campaigns — with the goal of reaching a compromise that Mr. Obama could sign before the 2014 midterm election campaigns intensify next fall.”
Here is what the Republican leadership should hear from Business Leaders – take up legal immigration reform immediately. Agenda items should include: (i) increasing H-1B numbers and setting a scalable cap based on demand; (ii) introducing legislative reform to streamline and clarify the L-1A/B Visa program to allow Multinational Corporations transfer key personnel with minimum disruption (iii) Increasing immigrant Visa Numbers to allow hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants currently in the pipeline immigrate within a more reasonable time (2-4 years) frame (currently anywhere from 8-15 years); (iv) introducing a new non-immigrant visa category for entrepreneurs and start-ups, (v) providing special immigration benefits/incentives based on a point system to anyone currently enrolled in a PhD in a STEM based program.
Surveys have shown that there is little opposition to legal immigration reform. Why not take this up now and build consensus for a more comprehensive immigration package down the road? It appears the strategy of holding up legal immigration reform so as to ensure every segment of the immigrant community benefits has produced little or no consensus. There is never going to be a time when everyone agrees on everything so, why not try to implement that which appears to have little or no objection ?