Juliana Gruenwald, in a National Journal piece, reports that Senators Mark Warner (D, VA), Chris Coons (D, DE), Jerry Moran (R, KS) and Marco Rubio (R, FL) are proposing an immigration bill—Start-up Act 2.0—that would create two new visas.
One visa would make it easier for foreign students who’ve gained American schools’ post-graduate STEM degrees to remain in the US after graduation. These folks also would be eligible for permanent residency if they then remained employed in a STEM field for the next five years (and presumably eligible for citizenship, but this visa is separate from that).
The other visa would be for the roughly 75,000 skilled legal immigrants per year who start a business in the US, employ Americans, and invest or raise capital in the US. This entrepreneur visa would provide another pathway to permanent residence and eventually to citizenship.
This is a step in the right direction; however, it isn’t enough by itself, and it’s muddled by inclusions that, while important in their own right, have nothing to do with immigration.
It isn’t enough because it only addresses one narrow aspect of one part of a three-part immigration problem. I wrote earlier about those three parts; some of that is quoted here for convenience:
Most modern Conservatives agree that our borders need to be secured, including against illegal immigration. This need is based on…the right of any nation—the right of any society in their social compact—to determine for themselves who they will allow into their nation: no foreign entity has an inherent right to enter another nation without that nation’s permission….
There are two additional aspects to immigration, and if these are not also solved, the immigration matter will continue to be a serious risk to our national security. These two aspects are what to do about the population of illegal aliens currently present in the United States, and what to do about legal entry for immigrants into our country.
[W]e need to remove the impediments to legal immigration, we need to eliminate the quotas that put an upper bound on the number of talented who want to work here, on the number of foreign-born who are educated in our Universities and want to stay past their college days. … It simply shouldn’t be that hard to enter the United States legally. There should be border crossing stations every mile along our border….
These visas are, as I said, a step in the right direction, but the idea falls short on two fronts: it adds to the breadth and complexity of the visa bureaucracy without addressing the overall problem of legal entry for all immigrants, and it doesn’t address at all the other two aspects of our immigration problem.
The muddle consists of tax and regulation clauses that the Senators consider politically necessary to get the bill passed—or at least publicly debated in Senator Harry Reid’s (D, NV) Senate. Among these extraneous items are:
- a tax credit intended to encourage start-ups to engage in R&D,
- a tax exemption that would eliminate capital gains taxes on investments in start-ups held for at least five years, and
- a requirement that any new regulation with an impact of $100 million or more be subject to a cost-benefit analysis prior to approval.
These are important in their own right, and the need to include these things, which are irrelevant to an immigration bill, in an immigration bill is a testament to the partisan, obstructionist nature of the Democrats’ hold on the Senate.
The tax questions are better handled in a tax reform bill that moves to a flat tax and maintains that flatness by eliminating subsidies of all types. The isolated regulation item is better handled in a separate regulatory reform bill that eliminates most of the existing regulations (much of which are mutually conflicting, much more of which are obsolete) and that returns regulation generation to the Congress as the most direct means of forcing that body actively to satisfy in its regulatory oversight responsibility.
The Senators’ immigration bill is well worth supporting, but only if it’s made clear that this is only an opening salvo in the struggle seriously to reform our immigration process.