Sen. Grassley Holds Up Rare Bipartisan Immigration Bill

December 02, 2011 11:30 am ET — Salvatore Colleluori

With the immigration debate growing increasingly divisive, it might be surprising to find out that both Republicans and Democrats came together this week to pass an important immigration bill. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act — a bill that would remove the country-specific caps on highly skilled immigrants — by a vote of 389 to 15. Given support from both parties for the measure as well as endorsements from both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and pro-immigration groups, one would expect it to fly though the Senate in an equally bipartisan fashion.

Alas, upon reaching the Senate calendar, a hold was placed on the bill by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who explained he was worried that the bill does nothing to protect Americans who seek high-skilled jobs.

Grassley's opposition to the bill is misguided. As the Immigration Policy Center points out, highly skilled immigrant workers "don't 'steal' jobs from U.S. workers." An essay by two economists included with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' 2010 annual report explains, "High-skilled immigrants tend to complement high-skilled native-born workers by flowing into fast-growing fields where native labor supply cannot keep up." From 1995 to 2005, "immigrants co-founded one-quarter of U.S. tech and engineering start-ups, including co-founding well-known names like Intel, Google, and eBay."

In addition to backing from President Obama, increasing the number of highly skilled immigrants has garnered support from the conservative Heritage Foundation and the libertarian Cato Institute, as well as from Republican presidential contenders Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Romney even suggested stapling "a green card to the diploma of anybody who's got a degree of math, science, a Masters degree, Ph.D."

Sen. Grassley's hold proves that instead of listening to the studies, the business leaders, and even members of his own party, he is letting his anti-immigrant ideology get in the way of a smart policy.