If the House of Representatives can’t get its act together and immigration reform fails all over again, the country will be stuck with existing immigration policies, probably for years.
The “good” news — and this reflects horribly on Congress and the GOP’s House majority — is that doing nothing won’t cause a government shutdown or threaten a default on U.S. credit obligations.
But there are huge constituencies across the country banking on comprehensive reform, who will benefit if the effort succeed. Here are the eight biggest losers if it fails:Facebook
Big tech companies — including members of Mark Zuckerberg’s group FWD.us — have been advocating fiercely for comprehensive reform, largely to increase the number of foreign high-tech workers allowed in the country at any time. They successfully lobbied to nearly triple the number of high-skilled H-1B visas in Senate-passed legislation (from 65,000 up to 180,000), and beat back some of the stricter enforcement proposals on offer, including an effort to require employers to prove immigrant employees didn’t displace U.S. workers.
Immigration reform would create new regulations allowing low-skilled immigrants and agriculture workers of all kinds to work in the country legally. But it could have the biggest impact on labor-intensive crops like tomatoes and peaches. If immigration reform stems or reverses the drying labor supply — a big if — it would alleviate the pressure on farmers to swap out delicious fruits for less work-intensive crops.
Granny (and future grannies)
One of the less-discussed aspects of immigration reform is the extent to which it would help re-established the demographic pyramid. Because most immigrants are younger, and would suddenly be subject to payroll taxes, the Social Security actuary expects immigration reform will reduce the long-run Social Security trust fund shortfall.
The conservative backlash against immigration reform is already causing its Republican champion, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), to overcompensate by lurching right on just about every other issue. If the reform effort succeeds, he’ll at the very least have something big to show for his brief Senate tenure — including a strict border security regime — if he decides to run for president. He’ll also attract a huge donor network. But if the process lapses, he’ll be the guy who shook hands with Democrats to provide amnesty for illegal immigrants, against the wishes of the GOP base, and got nothing for it.
Redistricting has inoculated nearly all House Republicans from the repercussions of killing immigration reform. Indeed, most GOP districts with large Hispanic populations still went overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney. Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) is one major exception. Redistricting landed him in a district that voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. And unlike other purple-district Republicans, such as Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Miller and a handful of others also won’t be able to claim to have pushed for reform as hard as possible.
For a political system forever at odds over fiscal and economic policy, and an economy stuck in the doldrums as a result, immigration reform is a freebie. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the Senate immigration bill would increase real GDP by 3.3 percent in 2023 relative to the current baseline. Growing the economic pie means revenues rise and deficits fall without raising taxes.
Paul Ryan has more freedom in the GOP conference than any members of the traditional leadership structure, from the Speaker on down. He’s also one of the only party leaders who’s actively lobbying conference members to support comprehensive reform. If they rebuff him it will be a defeat surpassed only by his losing vice presidential candidacy in 2012.
This should go without saying, but without comprehensive immigration reform, 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. illegally, including those with children who are citizens, will be denied a path to citizenship themselves and continue to face deportation.