Alert
Close

Last chance – give now. Before 2014 ends, help struggling seniors. Donate

Opinion

A Fix for Immigration

Older Americans have a stake in changing laws for immigrants

Sens. John McCain Chuck Schumer immigration legislation

April 16, 2013: Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) leave the White House after a meeting with President Barack Obama. — Doug Mills/The New York Times/Redux

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R)

Senior senator from Arizona

Since our founding, America has been a magnet for people seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life for themselves and their children. But today our immigration system is badly broken.

 

Today 11 million people live in the shadows of our society — lacking basic legal protections, the victims of terrible exploitation. Right now, drug and human smugglers operate all along our Southwest border, depriving the people living there of the right to feel safe in their homes. And today, our dysfunctional immigration system denies our economy the labor and intellectual capital it badly needs for growth.

 

I’ve joined together with a group of Republicans and Democrats to address this issue head-on. Older Americans have a stake in immigration reform. For example, they suffer longer periods of unemployment; reform can grow the economy and create jobs. It can also significantly strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

 

We begin by securing the border. Before any immigrant can get a green card, the number of Border Patrol agents must be doubled to nearly 40,000, and some 700 miles of fencing must be completed. Our bill also deploys advanced surveillance technology — including advanced VADER radar and drones developed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The chief of the Border Patrol has stated that with these technologies, his agents will achieve effective control of the Southwest border.

 

We also provide a tough but fair path for millions of people living in the shadows to come forward, settle their debt to society and earn citizenship. It’s a long path — at least 13 years — with requirements for criminal background checks, paying fines and taxes owed, learning English and going to the back of the line.

 

For the first time in U.S. history, our bill aligns America’s immigration system with our national economic objectives. It shifts to a more merit-based approach to immigration, filling labor needs and making sure the best and brightest of our foreign students — particularly in the critical fields of science, engineering and math — start building businesses here in America rather than their home countries.

 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected that our legislation will grow the economy by an additional 3.3 percent and decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the next 10 years.

 

An underappreciated impact of immigration reform is its role in strengthening entitlement programs. As former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and more than 100 other conservative economists wrote earlier this year, “a reformed and efficient immigration system can promote economic growth and ease the challenge of reforming unsustainable federal health and retirement programs.”

 

According to the Social Security Administration, immigration reform will ensure the program’s full solvency through 2035 and reduce its unfunded liabilities by nearly $500 billion through 2087. In 10 years our bill would add almost 6.6 million more workers paying Social Security taxes — nearly 10 additional taxpayers for each new beneficiary.

 

While there are many strong opinions about the issue of immigration, there is one premise most of us agree on: The status quo is unacceptable. Our borders are unsecured, our laws are being violated and our current immigration laws do not meet the needs of a growing economy. Finding an effective, just and practical solution is difficult, but it is our work to do.

Sen. McCain's website is mcain.senate.gov.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D)

Senior senator from New York

I have always been an optimist. I am hardwired to see the bright side of any problem. But a few years ago, I came to the conclusion that America’s immigration system is badly broken. We are not stopping people from coming here illegally to take jobs from Americans, and we are not encouraging people to come here legally to work in jobs for which Americans are not available.


Should 50-plus America be concerned? Yes. Immigration reform would stimulate economic growth and create jobs, reduce budget deficits and improve the solvency of Social Security and Medicare.

Our broken system is adversely affecting our security, economy, education system, food supply, foreign relations and global competitiveness. This simply does not need to be the case. None of the problems currently afflicting our broken system can be explained quickly or solved individually. But they all can be solved if they are addressed collectively.


For instance, it does no good solely to hermetically “seal the border first” if people can simply fly into our airports on legal tourist visas and never go home. Similarly, we cannot crack down on employers who hire illegal workers if we do not simultaneously address the labor shortages in certain occupations, such as agriculture, that require employers to hire foreign workers. And it makes no sense to create visas to encourage the world’s best and brightest minds to study at our universities without also providing the ability for these folks to stay in America once they graduate to start new companies and create new jobs.

This summer, a bipartisan group of senators came together to pass smart, fair and practical immigration reform legislation that would accomplish five objectives:

  • Fully securing our borders and tracking whether temporary immigrants and visitors have left the country when required;

  • Reforming legal immigration to create robust economic growth;

  • Creating effective employment verification that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of illegal workers;

  • Establishing an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting American workers;

  • Creating a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon learning English, paying taxes and avoiding criminality.

One of the most positive effects of passing immigration reform is that by unleashing the drive, innovation and indomitable spirit that immigrants bring, we will also generate significant economic growth and debt reduction. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that immigration reform would: (1) decrease federal budget deficits by nearly $200 billion over a 10-year period and by as much as $1 trillion over a 20-year period; (2) increase economic growth by 3.3 percent over 10 years and 5.4 percent over 20 years; and (3) create over 5 million new jobs. This growth and debt reduction would significantly enhance the solvency of Medicare, ensure full Social Security solvency for two additional years (through 2035) and reduce Social Security liabilities by nearly half a trillion dollars through 2087.

No other bill Congress is considering would even remotely approach the economic growth, deficit reduction and long-term fiscal solvency that passing the immigration bill would achieve. None would even come close to saving Medicare and Social Security the way this bill does. This bill will help our seniors and retirees.

The importance of immigration reform cannot be overstated because it is so overdue. Ask your member of Congress to support reform.

Sen. Schumer's website is schumer.senate.gov.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Benefits & Discounts

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Downloadable mobile app from AARP® Roadside Assistance from Allstate.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

FEATURED GROUPS

Politics — Current Events

Speak out on the issues and controversies of the day. Discuss

Issues & Elections

Civil, bipartisan discussions of today's issues and topics of national interest. Discuss