The Tri-Counties have a lot to gain and very little to lose from the comprehensive immigration reform bill that’s headed for passage in the Senate by a bipartisan and filibuster-proof majority.
For high-cost and highly competitive agribusinesses in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, the ability to recruit farmworkers on guest visas is a vast improvement over the byzantine rules that now apply and that create an underclass of illegal workers who also have Social Security numbers and bank accounts.
For CSU Channel Islands, California Lutheran University, UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, visa expansion for science, math and computer science graduates and post-graduates allows these institutions to be more competitive on a global scale.
For technology companies ranging from small startups to giants such as Teledyne Technologies, the ability to get new work visas for talented scientists, including those graduating from area universities, levels the playing field between the U.S. and emerging countries such as India and China.
And finally, for the thousands of illegal immigrants currently in the Tri-Counties, a path to citizenship puts them on the road to fully pay for many of the services they are now receiving under-the-table or for free.
Yes, we believe border security is important and we applaud judicious increases in funding to make our borders more secure. But America’s economic security also matters, and that is why a comprehensive immigration bill that increases the nation’s competitiveness, raises new revenue needed to balance the budget and brings new entrepreneurs into the economic mainstream will pay off.
There is a further reason to hope that comprehensive immigration reform passes. One of the lessons of the 2012 election is that minority voters, especially Hispanic and Asian voters, really matter. They matter in presidential contests and they matter in congressional races such as California’s competitive District 26. That race was won handily by Julia Brownley, a Democrat, over Tony Strickland in part because Oxnard’s Hispanic voters skewed heavily toward the Democratic candidate.
A bipartisan effort to pass immigration reform in the House would put more Hispanic votes up for grabs in future Presidential elections as well as Congressional races such as California’s 26th Congressional district.