By Michael Mahaffey
One of the issues that I am sure members of Congress have been hearing about during their summer recess is immigration reform.
As a small-town lawyer, former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and one who has been involved in politics for many years I have had the opportunity to discuss this important issue with many friends and clients in recent months. This group includes dairy farmers, small-business men and women, business leaders, agribusiness leaders and owners, evangelicals, Catholics (including a deacon in the church) and other people from all walks of life.
The two things they all have in common are that they favor meaningful and significant immigration reform, and they are also all Republicans.
I have become increasingly dismayed by the rhetoric and actions of too many within the Republican Party concerning this issue. There are tens of thousands of Iowa Republicans who support significant and meaningful immigration reform. They, too, are dismayed at the lack of progress in this matter and also concerned about the implications of the failure of reform for our party.
Like the Republicans I have talked to, I do favor reform that addresses the issue of the more than 11 million people who are here illegally. A long, rigorous path to citizenship is one of the reforms that must be addressed and confronted.
There are many good reasons to favor significant and meaningful immigration reform.
First of all, it is simply good economics. We need growth in this country, and immigration reform is one way to get that growth. The Corcoran Entrepreneur Report for 2012 shows that two-thirds of all people starting a business during the preceding year were immigrants. Immigrants have always been a significant part of our economy and we have benefited from them. We can continue to do so.
Second, there is a moral aspect to this question of immigration reform. Many evangelicals and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have endorsed immigration reform. My friends and clients who have immigrants working for them have told me repeatedly of the strong work ethic and traditional values that many of the immigrants, illegal or otherwise, have brought to this country.
A Pew Research Center study released earlier this year shows that, by the second generation, 61 percent of immigrants think of themselves as “typical Americans.” This is America and we can and will flourish with immigration reform.
The 11 million immigrants in this country illegally are not going be rounded up and sent home; it is not only impractical to do so but is against our traditional American values.
The third reason that my Republican Party needs reform is political. As David Brooks recently said in one of his op-ed pieces for the New York Times, “if the conservatives defeat immigration reform, the Republicans will definitely lose control of one thing for years to come: political power.”
Ronald Reagan used to say Hispanic voters were Republican, they simply didn’t know it. If the immigrations restrictionists in our party hold sway, Hispanic voters across this country will never know what they have in common with the Republican Party and our party will lose a great opportunity with an important and growing voting block. It simply makes no sense for our party to not have a positive, forward-looking approach to immigration reform.
My wife and I recently met a couple from San Antonio, originally from Iowa and Michigan. The husband, a business owner, told me that the next Republican governor in Texas may be the last Republican governor unless the party learns to address this very important issue in a more meaningful, thoughtful and constructive way.
It is my hope that thoughtful congressmen such as Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will be able to put together a bipartisan bill in the House that will address this very important issue. If this does not happen, the Republican Party will not only lose politically, it will lose part of its soul.
Michael Mahaffey, of Montezuma, is an attorney and former Iowa Republican Party chairman, email@example.com