The Senate is poised to consider an immigration reform bill that would create a comprehensive but fair pathway to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in our country. This bill was crafted with bipartisan support and represents an historic opportunity for our nation.
In April, the Border Security Economic Opportunity and Immigration Act, S. 744, was introduced by Senators from both parties who had labored for months to craft it. This measure would strengthen our border security, create a fair legalization program, and create a workable system to ensure that employers only hire legal workers in the future.
Immigration reform is a very important issue for our state’s future. Today, Maryland has an estimated 275,000 undocumented immigrants, accounting for 4.6 percent of our state’s population and 6.2 percent of the labor force, according to estimates by the Pew Research Hispanic Center.
Despite fears that immigrants will take jobs from Americans, numerous studies show that immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs. In fact, a 2009 study by the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, found that immigrants have a positive effect on the workplace.
The business sector strongly supports comprehensive immigration reform. That’s because our economy is in need of highly skilled workers that can help stimulate growth and keep our nation at the forefront of innovation and invention. From 1990 to 2005, foreign-born nationals founded more than 25 percent of the technology startups in the United States, including Google, e-Bay, Yahoo, and Intel. These companies now employ 220,000 people in the United States.
A key ingredient to passing immigration reform is fixing our broken border security system and ensuring our borders are secure. We also need to find a fair process that gives millions of undocumented immigrants an opportunity to emerge from the shadows and find a path toward citizenship if they wish to remain in this country.
Immigration reform also is about keeping families together and ensuring that immigration laws are respected. I want to commend my colleagues from both parties for coming together in crafting a bipartisan bill that creates a workable framework for comprehensive reform. Now the Senate needs to move forward in passing legislation that is both comprehensive and fair.