On immigration, it’s time for some tough love

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Why would Donald Trump the businessman would never want to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program?

The 2012 executive order issued under former President Barack Obama is certainly business-friendly. By allowing young immigrants to stay in the United States, regardless of their parents’ status, and give them access to work permits, DACA created a class of hundreds of thousands of workers, from the very unskilled to the very skilled, as well as countless prospective entrepreneurs that contribute, by some estimates, hundreds of billions to our Gross Domestic Product. Business leaders from many industries–and many in the president’s own party–are standing up to support the continuation of DACA, citing the order’s importance to America’s economy, an economy that struggles with unfilled jobs and a lack of labor participation.

And yet there was the Trump administration on Tuesday, pulling the plug on DACA, a move that many perceive to be anti-business. Why? Trump wants immigration reform to be a matter of law, not executive order. And that’s good for business.

The DACA debate goes to the core of America’s immigration challenges. We are all immigrants. We all appreciate law-abiding people from other countries who work hard, produce, pay taxes and contribute to society. Business owners like me are grateful that there are immigrants willing to do the jobs that we find difficult to fill and we’re equally appreciative of those immigrants who start new companies, buy our products, use our services and employ our children. I meet thousands of business owners and leaders every year and most overwhelmingly support the rights of legal immigrants. But the emphasis is on the word legal.

Where business people (and workers) start having concerns is with illegal immigrants–millions of them–who they believe take away jobs, drain resources and contribute to crime. I know many business owners who get in trouble for inadvertently hiring immigrants who present forged paperwork and many others who must contend with unscrupulous competitors that take advantage of illegal immigrants, hire them for lower wages and undercut their prices.

Putting DACA on notice–threatening the status of the innocent, the children–should force Congress to finally do something about immigration reform.  Today’s rules are messy, difficult to understand, controversial and in many cases impossible to enforce. Some say they rely on flimsy legal grounds. Allowing the rule to stand only creates more uncertainty for future generations of legal immigrants, rather than giving them a clear path to citizenship.

President Obama tried to find a solution and failed. Ensuring that at least the children of illegal immigrants already here would be protected and allowed to stay would give great comfort. But in the end, it’s time for some tough love.

The business community and our workers needs clarity on immigration. It needs legislation, not flimsy rules. Congress needs to stop delaying and act. The president is forcing the issue. His is not an anti-business stance. Ending DACA and replacing it with clear immigration legislation would be extremely pro-business. In fact,it just might be the most pro-business move he’s made so far.


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