by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The free movement of trade, capital and labor is strongly pro-growth. History shows that legal immigration is good for America, economic growth, entrepreneurship, job creation and hard-working families. America must remain a city on a hill, attracting the best and brightest from around the world — a beacon of freedom.
The trouble is, Obama’s executive actions not only usurp powers that are not his, they don’t really solve key immigration problems.
Mainly, not even Obama is attempting to increase visas (that are the purview of Congress). Therefore there’s no clear legal immigration process for the most important group: the high-tech brainiacs who are likely to be the entrepreneurial engines of new business start-ups and overall job-creating growth.
Tight limits on high-skilled worker visas and the whole whacky system of green-card, permanent-resident status are not being fixed. This can only happen through legislative change. In other words, Congress has to act (in this and a dozen other places).
So the Silicon Valley crowd is not cheering Obama’s executive actions. …
… As Michael Barone has noted, it’s the high-tech brainiacs that we want to invite and protect. They are more important than the low-wage groups. Even big-business advocates, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable, are underwhelmed by Obama’s actions. Chamber president Tom Donohue told Fortune.com, “Meaningful and lasting immigration reform can only be achieved through the enactment of bipartisan legislation.”
So here’s Obama breaking all kinds of constitutional rules and losing important support.
Another problem is that Obama’s plan is not going to have much economic impact. His Council of Economic Advisers is predicting a GDP increase of 0.4 percent after 10 years, a 0.3 percent increase in average wages and a reduction in the federal budget deficit of $25 billion. Virtually no change.
In their report, the council also says the economy will do slightly better because of increased innovation from high-skilled workers. But as noted, we’re not going to get any more high-skilled workers because the president has no authority to issue them visas.
Then there’s the likelihood that the president’s executive actions have “poisoned the well.” If so, a bunch of economic growth measures will never go through. To my lights, the most important is business tax reform. A new Republican Congress is already very close to a compromise position that would lower tax rates for both C-corps and pass-through S-corps and LLC’s. Repatriation of U.S. cash abroad is in that mix. Even President Obama has talked about a corporate-tax-reform compromise.
But with all the bad blood on immigration, the chances for a job-creating bill like this are very low.