Although they do not always align politically, billionaires Sheldon Adelson, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett teamed up this past Friday in an effort to pressure Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, stating “Americans deserve better” than the current bickering that has stopped a bill from reaching the desk of Pres. Obama.
“The three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us,” they wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece. “We hope that fact holds a lesson: you don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement. It’s time that this brand of thinking finds its way to Washington.”
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are considered more progressive – and Buffett even supported the president’s reelection in 2012. Both of these men have previously advocated for comprehensive immigration reform in the past. But the decision by Adelson to join his voice with the chorus might seem surprising – he’s a longtime financier of causes that are conservative. Not only that, but he was also the single largest spender on behalf of Republican candidates during the elections in 2012.
Adelson’s overall support, though, puts him typically in line with the entirety of the business community, which has broken a few of the elements of the Republican coalition in order to push immigration reform.
In particular, the business lobby is looking to increase the amount of highly skilled immigrants that come into America. They hope to make it easier for foreign young adults to attend college here as well as stay in order to apply their newly cultivated talents. Adelson, Gates and Buffett were in agreement at the latter proposal in their New York Times piece.
“We believe it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities – often subsidizing their education – and then deport them when they graduate,” wrote the group. “Many of these people, of course, want to return to their home country – and that’s fine. But for those who wish to stay and work in computer science or technology, fields badly in need of their services, let’s roll out the welcome mat.”
They asked for an expansion and reform of the “investor visa” program in order to provide residency, and it could also bring potential citizenship, to those immigrants committed to spending a certain amount of money in order to help the US economy grow.
“People willing to invest in America and create jobs deserve the opportunity to do so,” wrote the group. “New citizens like these would make hefty deposits in our economy, not withdrawals.”
They even endorsed the part of immigration reform that has been the toughest sell for their opponents: creating a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants that are currently living in the United States.
In June 2013, the immigration bill that passed by the Senate “included a sensible plan that would have allowed illegal residents to obtain citizenship, though only after they had earned the right to do so,” they wrote. “Americans are a forgiving and generous people, and who among us is not happy that their forebears – whatever their motivation or means of entry – made it to our soil?”
But no matter what the scope and shape of the final bill happens to be, they wrote, “it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects our country’s humanity and its self-interest.”
“Differences with the Senate should be hammered out by members of a conference committee, committed to a deal,” wrote the group. “The current stalemate – in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests – is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us.”
The House of Representatives has refused to go to conference with the comprehensive bill of the Senate, and the Republicans are saying they’d rather take on the problem in a step-by-step way. But even these piecemeal proposals have proven to be too heavy a lift for the GOP conference: several have passed through the House Judiciary Committee, but nothing has reached the floor of the House.
There is very little hope that the House of Representatives will act this year because the issue has already receded further by an announcement Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., which the GOP leaders of the House said they are not going to move on immigration reform during 2014.
“Despite our best efforts, today I was informed by Republican leadership that they have no intention to bring [a comprehensive bill] to the floor this year,” said Diaz-Balart in a press conference. “It is disappointing and highly unfortunate, because we have a unique opportunity to secure the borders, fix our broken immigration system, and strengthen our economy.”
There could potentially be at least one small action about immigration this year, though: to address the recent large amount of unaccompanied children from Central America at the US-Mexican border. The President of the United States has requested $3.7 billion from Congress for emergency spending in order to expedite the process and return these children to their home as well as strengthen border security. At this time, Senate leaders and members of the House of Representatives are mulling over the proposal’s specifics.