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Strengthening Our Economy Means Delivering on Immigration Reform and Taking on GOP’s Nativism

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Washington, DC – With labor shortages and high inflation in the news, several Republican-aligned voices are making the case that getting our economy right means getting immigration reform right. 

Earlier this week, NBC News reported, “Slowing immigration worsens job shortages.” It noted that net immigration to the U.S. was one-quarter what it had been in 2016, and is now considered a major – if often overlooked – factor in the worker shortage. The decline is a consequence not only of the pandemic but of deliberate actions taken by President Trump, his advisor Stephen Miller and the GOP overall to reduce all forms of immigration. 

While the nativists, culture warriors and white nationalists in Republican politics have drowned out pro-business Republicans in recent years, voices with sway within the GOP still need to help take on the ascendant xenophobia that has transformed the GOP into an anti-commerce and anti-growth party. 

As CNN Business reports, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is highlighting that more immigrants and immigration will be good for the economy, specifically to combat inflation and address the worker shortage: 

“The US Chamber of Commerce is calling for doubling the number of legal immigrants into America as a way to ease inflation and the worker shortage. ‘We need more workers. We should welcome people who want to come here, go to school and stay,’ Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday. ‘That is a place the government could be particularly helpful and we do believe it would be anti-inflationary.’

Clark added that ramping up immigration would help to ease the supply chain disruptions that are at the heart of the inflation spike, including the shortage of truck drivers. ‘If we can alleviate the worker shortage, it might be the fastest thing to do to impact inflation.’”

Also today, former Republican House member Steve Stivers is out with an op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Immigration reform can help solve Ohio’s workforce crisis,” which states:

“Over my career as a state senator, a U.S. Congressman and now the Ohio Chamber of Commerce CEO, I’ve come to believe that global talent is a key ingredient to our economic vitality. Of course, the Ohio Chamber supports getting people to move to Ohio from other states, but we also need to attract talent from other countries, as well … So many of our businesses have real-life examples of how immigrants helped to turn things around.

Attracting and retaining global talent also has benefits beyond the business community. It creates a more robust tax base. Foreign-born Ohioans paid $6 billion in taxes in 2019, according to New American Economy. Immigrants also have a positive impact on  entrepreneurship, as immigrants launch new businesses at significant rates. Today, more than 29,000 foreign-born entrepreneurs create services and support our local economies across Ohio.

… [I]mmigrants are key to economic recovery. A new report from NAE assessing the aftermath of the Great Recession, found that metro areas with more immigrants were able to recover faster than others. On average, each additional percentage point of foreign-born residents was associated almost 800 more employed workers in 2015.”

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:

The Trump-led GOP is putting nativism, xenophobia and anti-immigrant politics ahead of the economic interests of the country. To recover from the pandemic’s economic shocks, we need to overcome the trauma of the Trump years. Getting our economy right means getting immigration policies right. 

That means increasing immigration channels so that more people are able to come with visas, as the Chamber of Commerce and former Rep. Stivers call for. That also means delivering on reforms to legalize undocumented essential workers who improve the productivity of all workers and have played an outsized role and paid an outsized price for helping keep our economy going. These reforms are overdue, popular and necessary. 

However, the Republican Party and their more traditional commerce-oriented allies need to decide if they will put optimism and opportunity to work to modernize our immigration system to keep our economy moving? Or will they continue to embrace nativism and nationalism with its demonstrated impact of dampening our economic potential while sowing division and chaos.