February 2, 2021
PLAINSBORO, NJ — A newly formed coalition of New Jersey business groups committed to bipartisan immigration reform has weighed in on aspects of the Biden administration’s immigration reform legislative package. Although the content of “The Citizenship Act of 2021” is currently available only in summary form (the full text of the bill is expected to be published in a matter of days), the Coalition, in a statementissued today, believes that the bill is a “constructive first step in the long delayed effort to achieve immigration reform.”
According to Coalition Coordinator Nicholas Montalto, the Coalition consists of major business groups in the state, including the New Jersey State Chamber, the New Jersey BIA, regional and ethnic chambers of commerce. Members of the Coalition “view lawful immigration as a powerful tool for economic recovery and growth.”
At this stage in the legislative process, the Coalition has chosen to comment on four broad aspects of the immigration policy challenge: overall numbers, admission categories, legalization, and the educational pipeline.
With regard to overall numbers, the Coalition believes in the importance of building in flexibility in how annual admission numbers are determined so that numbers can rise and fall based on the needs of the economy.
The Coalition also urges a greater emphasis on employment-based immigration, noting that only 14 percent of U.S. green cards are issued for economic reasons, compared to more than 60 percent in Canada and Australia. According to Katherine Kish, Executive Director of Einstein’s Alley and one of the founders of the Coalition, “this feature of the U.S. immigration system is partly responsible for the high levels of undocumented immigration we have seen in the U.S. in recent decades.” She also believes that family reunification must also remain a bedrock principle of U.S. immigration law.
On the controversial question of legalization, the Coalition believes that “it is in the best interest of the American people to regularize the status of law-abiding residents of the United States, especially those with long-term ties to the country.” Commenting on the Biden immigration proposal, Montalto said “amnesty shouldn’t be a dirty word. It’s a way of allowing people to get right with the law, and often a way of making up for weaknesses in the law itself.”
Finally, the Coalition urges the administration “to maintain the flow of international students and scholars to U.S. colleges and universities.” Noting the declining numbers of international students enrolling in U.S. colleges and the greater competition from higher education institutions in other countries, the Coalition believes that American economic competitiveness hinges on our ability to attract and retain these students, more than half of whom major in STEM subjects. “Through programs like OPT and H-1B,” remarked Kish, “some of these students have been able to advance to permanent residence and become the innovators and job creators the country so desperately needs. We need to keep this pipeline open.”
The Coalition plans to release additional comments and recommendations on the proposed legislation, once the text of the bill has been published.