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The Republican Party remains divided over immigration reform, and one of the biggest sticking point centers on whether to embrace a pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally.
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist is actively lobbying for legalization and told WND changing immigration policy for high-skilled and low-skilled workers is good for America and for the U.S. economy.
"We need to have an immigration policy that allows us to bring a lot more talent to the United States than the present one. The so-called H1B Visa, visas for people with high skills, should be dramatically increased. We should have quite a number of people who bring talent and skills to the United States and allow them to stay and work," Norquist said. "You come over, you go to MIT or Cal Tech from some other country. We sell you a great education and then we toss you out of the country and say, 'Go back to India or China or some other country and start a technology company and compete with the United States.'
"Why not let people stay here and work if they'd like to and eventually become citizens? We should be doing a great deal more of that. It's what built the country in the first place," said Norquist, who argued that the same approach should be taken to low-skilled workers who come to the U.S. illegally.
"We have a shortage of people willing to work in farming. We have crops rotting in the fields in those states where they decided they didn't like immigrants coming and working on farms," he said.
But would legalizing those immigrants have a positive or negative impact on the economy?
Norquist cited a Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, report showing legalization having a net positive effect. However, the Heritage Foundation estimates that the illegal immigrants who would receive legal status would cost the nation a net $6.3 trillion in government programs. Norquist said the Heritage report is based on "phony numbers" and that the CBO report and another done by former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin tell the real story.
"It would be a dramatic increase, both in revenue of higher taxes of more people working, way more than any government spending," he said. "It just makes sense. If you're going to grow at three percent a year instead of two percent a year, that's two-and-a-half trillion dollars in revenue to the U.S. government over the course of 10 years."
Norquist backs stronger border security measures, but he said the bigger issue is reforming the guest-worker program, which would reduce the incentive for most illegals. He noted that President Eisenhower crafted a guest-worker program that reduced border apprehensions from one million per year to about 40,000. He added that President Kennedy and Johnson then gutted the program as a favor to labor unions and the numbers increased again. Norquist said the same problem happened during the 1986 amnesty debate.
"The most important way to have a secure border is to have a robust guest-worker program so that everybody walks through the doors and not try to crawl over the fence," he said. "Yeah, we should have strong border security. I think that's useful and helpful, but 90 percent of that is a serious guest-worker program."
Norquist said the Senate bill has a much weaker guest-worker program than he would like because Democrats acquiesced to organized labor. He argued that a House bill would be much better on that front.