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Sowing Conscience Among Confusion on Immigration Mess

John Rowe  •  Crain's Chicago Business

President Trump, keeping his campaign commitments, has issued a series of temporary orders prohibiting immigration from certain nations and suspending refugees from others. To the right this sounds firm, safe and more moderate than some of the President’s campaign pledges. At least the orders are not directed at all Muslims. To the left, these orders sound like ethnic discrimination and a lack of mercy.

To me, the orders seem imprecisely conceived and poorly executed, not really effective, not really prudent and not really decent. Torn as the seven nations are, almost none of the confirmed terrorists in this country came from the enumerated nations. We need the trust and support of our native Muslims to make us safer. But our neighbors—Latino, Asian, and Muslim—live in increasing fear. Their fear of violence, like we saw in Quebec, is as great as my fear of another San Bernardino. Tempting though it is, we cannot kill wasps with sledge hammers. Yet we all want more security.

The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which I co-chair, was formed to encourage immigration reform legislation that addresses our economy, our security and simple justice in a comprehensive way. Immigration makes us a more prosperous nation.

Half of U.S. startups valued at more than $1 billion were founded by immigrants, and at University of Illinois, 90 percent of patents have at least one immigrant inventor. Our undocumented immigrants work hard. They pick crops, care for cattle, sweat over hot sauté pans, clean hotel rooms, care for the elderly. By doing the dirty and backbreaking jobs that Americans do not want, undocumented immigrants create office-type and “front of the house” jobs that Americans prefer. Undocumented immigrants pay $11 billion in state and local taxes each year, including $743 million in Illinois. Given our state’s current economic crisis, we cannot afford to miss out on this much-needed revenue.

IBIC members understand that traditional job opportunities have disappeared, but we believe that problem arises from new technology and global competition. Picking on immigrants will not create new jobs in steel and coal. Likewise, most of us would accept and encourage more rigorous reviews of immigrants to identify terrorist connections, and the use of tools like e-verify to help keep track of new residents. But the connections between terrorist incidents and any broad class of immigrants are minimal. In the end, most people come here because they want to be here. While political action may be piecemeal, only truly comprehensive immigration reform will make this country a stronger economic engine, a safer society and a more decent place.

Pass the BRIDGE act

To start, we must pass the Bridge Act, sponsored by our Senator Dick Durbin, my friend Senator Lindsey Graham and others from both parties. The Bridge Act replaces President Obama’s DACA order with legislation. It applies to young people, like many students from the charter schools that Jeanne and I support, who came here with their parents and have no real criminal records. The Bridge Act enables them to finish their education, work and pay taxes.

Another priority should be to provide security and opportunity for the remainder of the 11 to 12 million who came here illegally but have led decent lives. President Trump has created an opening for the right kind of action in saying he wants to focus on deporting those who have committed real felonies and deal with the remainder of the undocumented immigrants after securing the borders. We must enact legislation that implements the President’s concept. Some penalty can be imposed, like a tax, for illegal entry. Those who came illegally can be placed at the back of the line for citizenship. But the great majority who have committed no violent crime must be safe and able to work.

A third priority would be securing the border, developing e-verify, and improving our review of potential immigrants. While the risks from immigration have been exaggerated, there are genuine risks. Whether we have a wall or a fence, we must know who is coming into this country and have a higher level assurance about their backgrounds.

Finally, I venture into the truly vexing issue of sanctuary cities. The very idea is bad law, confusing national politics and risky from a fiscal point of view. Yet sanctuary cities are essential as a matter of local politics and equally essential as a moral matter. Republican that I am, I stand with Mayor Emanuel on this one. The sanctuary city problem cannot be resolved by litigation, threats or capitulation on either side. It can only be resolved by comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Again, we must be prudent about our security and decent to residents and refugees at the same time. That is not easy but nothing less works.

Source: Crain's Chicago Business Posted in Editorials , Updates

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IBIC is a member of the American Business Immigration Coalition.

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