Still No Clear Path to Boost High-Skilled Immigration

Both parties want to bring more entrepreneurs and scientists in the country, but can’t agree how to get there.

Rep. John Delaney speaks at a National Journal event on high-skilled immigration June 2, 2015.
National Journal
Caitlin Owens
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Caitlin Owens
June 2, 2015, 9:46 a.m.

Demo­crat­ic Rep. John Delaney and Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Ron John­son agree that highly-skilled im­mig­rants are valu­able to the U.S. eco­nomy—they just dis­agree on what to do about it.

As Delaney put it: Demo­crats pri­or­it­ize find­ing a path to leg­al­iz­a­tion for un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants while Re­pub­lic­ans want to first fo­cus on se­cur­ing the bor­der.

“We all want every Amer­ic­an to have the op­por­tun­ity to build a good life for them­selves and their fam­ily,” John­son said. “There’s wide dis­par­ity in terms of how to provide those types of op­por­tun­it­ies, how to achieve that prosper­ity.”

Delaney, a mem­ber of the Joint Eco­nom­ic Com­mit­tee, and John­son, chair­man of the Sen­ate Home­land Se­cur­ity and Gov­ern­ment­al Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, on Tues­day key­noted a Na­tion­al Journ­al event, “Path­ways to Re­form: A Dis­cus­sion on High-Skilled Im­mig­ra­tion Policy,” un­der­writ­ten by Qual­comm.

“I agree with so much I heard,” said John­son, who spoke after Delaney, “but there’s a heavy dis­agree­ment in terms of what the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment really ought to do.”

Echo­ing the po­s­i­tions of their re­spect­ive parties, Delaney talked about com­pre­hens­ive re­form and John­son talked about piece­meal, step-by-step change.

Delaney said he thinks there will even­tu­ally be a House ver­sion of the 2013 im­mig­ra­tion bill passed in the Sen­ate; John­son said he would ar­gue the “com­pre­hens­ive bill … wasn’t go­ing to work.”

But at the end of the day, both want to re­tain tal­ent in the U.S.

“Let’s make sure the smartest minds stay here to grow the eco­nomy,” John­son said.

Delaney said ideo­lo­gic­al pro­gress on the eco­nom­ic ar­gu­ments would be an im­port­ant step to­wards achiev­ing more com­pre­hens­ive re­form, des­pite core dis­agree­ments between parties.

“One of the paths to en­han­cing eco­nom­ic growth is to em­brace a for­ward-look­ing im­mig­ra­tion strategy that al­lows more visas, more green cards, al­lows more en­tre­pren­eurs to work in our eco­nomy, cre­ate jobs, get that lever­age that we need, and al­low these com­pan­ies to com­pete glob­ally,” Delaney said. “So this is a growth is­sue. It’s a cur­rent is­sue and it’s a long term growth is­sue.”

Harry Holzer, a Geor­getown Uni­versity pro­fess­or, spoke on a pan­el of ex­perts fol­low­ing the key­note ad­dresses. He offered a more nu­anced view of im­mig­ra­tion re­form than either politi­cian.

“Right now, we need more in­nov­a­tion, we need more pat­ents gen­er­ated, we need more star­tups. There’s been a de­cline in busi­ness star­tups “¦ high-skill im­mig­ra­tion is good for that. High-skilled im­mig­rants cre­ate more star­tups,” he said. “I think the best thing we can do is open the per­man­ent path­ways to high-skill im­mig­ra­tion.”

On the oth­er hand, he said, there is a “mod­est neg­at­ive ef­fect on the wages of un­skilled nat­ive work­ers” and he agrees with John­son that “we want to raise the in­cent­ives for the leg­als, re­duce the in­cent­ives for the il­leg­als.”

And while he sup­ports a path to leg­al­iz­a­tion for un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants, at the end of the day it’s about the eco­nom­ics.

“Oth­er people talk about the val­ues, and I’ll let oth­er people talk about that,” Holzer said. “The eco­nom­ic ar­gu­ment to me is quite strong.”

What We're Following See More »
North Korea Threatens H-Bomb Test Over Pacific
1 days ago

"North Korea said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats. Kim did not specify what action he would take against the United States or Trump, whom he called a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard' in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded in recent weeks."

Trump Makes Good on Promise of New North Korea Sanctions
2 days ago

President Trump this afternoon announced another round of sanctions on North Korea, calling the regime "a continuing threat." The executive order, which Trump relayed to Congress, bans any ship or plane that has visited North Korea from visiting the United States within 180 days. The order also authorizes sanctions on any financial institution doing business with North Korea, and permits the secretaries of State and the Treasury to sanction any person involved in trading with North Korea, operating a port there, or involved in a variety of industries there.

Trump Promises More Sanctions on North Korea
2 days ago

In response to a reporter's question, President Trump said "he’ll be looking to impose further financial penalties on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic tests. ... The U.N. has passed two resolutions recently aimed at squeezing the North Korean economy by cutting off oil, labor and exports to the nation." Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that South Korea's unification ministry is sending an $8m aid package aimed at infants and pregnant women in North Korea. The "humanitarian gesture [is] at odds with calls by Japan and the US for unwavering economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang."

FLOTUS to Speak at UN Luncheon
3 days ago
Trump Meets with UN Leaders
4 days ago

President Trump on Tuesday night met with UN Secretary Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. In both cases, as per releases from the White House, Trump pressed them on the need to reform the UN bureaucracy.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.