Aug 31, 2016 - 7:30am

Trump and Clinton Seem to Be Struggling on Immigration. We Can Help.


Executive Director, Communications & Strategy

Our immigration system is broken. Our elected officials recognize this, our presidential candidates recognize this, and the American people by and large recognize this. However, the leading candidates for the White House have been anything but clear about how they would fix the system.

One candidate has talked in rather vague language about comprehensive reform but has provided little detail about what exactly those reforms would entail and how they would be enacted. In addition, she has alarmingly suggested that certain problems regarding our immigration system – including a dearth of available visas for highly skilled workers – can take a backseat while we tackle other challenges, such as the millions of undocumented workers living in America. Not exactly a “comprehensive” solution.

Meanwhile, her opponent has sent mixed signals about his immigration plans, seemingly struggling to identify policies that would strengthen both our national security and our national economy. While he has in recent weeks voiced momentary support for some more sound immigration measures, he has on each occasion quickly retreated back to his original positions, leaving pundits and voters to speculate about where he truly stands on these important issues.

In fact, the only thing that seems clear right now is that both candidates are still struggling to nail down the particulars of their immigration policies.

Good news. We have spent decades working on this issue, and we can help.

What we have learned, and what a mountain of research shows, is that America cannot compete in a global economy without the world's best talent, hardest workers and most innovative minds. And while many of those individuals will grow up here in the United States, many will grow up beyond our borders. Fortunately, America has long been a magnet for ambitious workers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

What’s important to note is that immigrants have an unmistakably positive impact on the American economy. They have an unmatched propensity for entrepreneurship, helping create thousands of jobs for U.S. workers. They also fill jobs that U.S. employers oftentimes struggle to fill, especially in seasonal industries, which in turn helps those businesses grow and create yet more jobs for American workers. And they broaden our tax base, helping our country pay for education and infrastructure and research, which further bolsters the American economy.

In short, “immigrants significantly benefit the U.S. economy by creating new jobs and complementing the skills of the U.S. native workforce, with a net positive impact on wage rates overall,” Randy Johnson, senior vice president for Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a report earlier this year debunking prevalent myths about immigration and the economy.

Related: Learn more about immigration reform through the #ReasonForReform campaign

Problem is, America’s outdated and inefficient immigration system has created too many barriers for individuals seeking the opportunity to work hard and contribute to our economy. If they can't put their dreams to work here—creating growth, driving productivity, and spurring innovation—they will do so in the economies of our competitors, and our country risks losing its position atop the global economy.

How do we fix the system? For starters, we must avoid the temptation to keep patching up our immigration problems with short-term and short-sighted fixes. Our next president must understand that the only truly effective, long-term solution is passing meaningful legislative reforms, not attempting to mend the process through more executive actions.

What should commonsense immigration reform include? There are some fundamentally vital components of any legislative effort, including green card reforms, more robust temporary worker programs for high-skilled and lesser-skilled workers, and a more workable national employment verification system. It must include a tough but fair process by which the 11 million undocumented individuals currently living in the United States can earn a legal status.

And it absolutely must include measures to secure our nation's borders and bolster our enforcement efforts. 

Through these reforms, we can ensure that America’s large and small businesses – the very businesses that both the Clinton and Trump campaigns say they’re committed to supporting – can find the workers they need to fill the jobs that make our economy run. We can help ensure that the rate of new business formation and new job creation continues to rise across the country. We can help strengthen our country’s overall national security. And we can ensure that America continues to be a leader in the global economy for decades to come.

We’re pleased to see that immigration has risen to the forefront of the political conversation, and we’re pleased to see that the candidates are giving this issue a great amount of thought. That’s a good start.

We’re also not surprised that they seem to be struggling to fully flesh out their immigration policies. These are complex issues, and for either candidate, the path forward won’t be easy. Nevertheless, our country’s future, from both an economic and security standpoint, will hinge largely on how we address our immigration challenges, so it’s absolutely critical that we get this right. No matter who wins the November election, we look forward to working with the new administration to get the job done.

“The Chamber has been working on these issues for a long time,” Johnson said at that same immigration event. “We’re not going to walk away from a debate that must continue, no matter how difficult.”

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About the Author

About the Author

J.D. Harrison
Executive Director, Communications & Strategy

J.D. Harrison is the Executive Director for Strategic Communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.