Manufacturers are in the business of building solutions. When we see a need to be filled or a problem to be solved, manufacturers go to work innovating and making the products that improve our daily lives. But we don’t stop there. When we see our nation facing a challenge, we don’t just call on our legislators to fix it; we also provide solutions.
That’s exactly what manufacturers have done to help fix our nation’s broken immigration system. Earlier this year, the National Association of Manufacturers released “A Way Forward,” a plan for comprehensive immigration reform that bolsters border security while strengthening the economy and providing certainty for those immigrants who are anxious about their future.
One component of the plan is a permanent solution for two populations who face uncertainty: Dreamers and individuals with Temporary Protected Status. Dreamers are undocumented young people who were brought to the United States by their parents and know no home other than this country. TPS is a humanitarian program that allows individuals to remain in the United States due to unsafe conditions in their home countries. Right now, these individuals’ futures are in legal limbo due to a combination of court rulings, administrative decisions and congressional inaction.
Legislation soon up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and similar bills recently introduced in the U.S. Senate would provide a solution for these two populations, and manufacturers are calling on Congress to act swiftly. While this is not a comprehensive solution, these bills are a way to move our nation one step closer to a more functional immigration system, and for that reason, they should command strong, bipartisan support. It is simply the right thing to do.
Any immigration reforms should be based on principles of fairness, adherence to the rule of law and compassion. Under both the NAM plan and the proposed legislation, Dreamers and individuals with TPS would have to meet certain conditions to remain in the United States legally. There must be a fair process and clear requirements.
These men and women are part of our country. They are our friends and neighbors, co-workers and employees. Like manufacturers across America, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, which operates manufacturing facilities in Washington, Idaho and Illinois, has seen firsthand the contributions Dreamers make to our economy and our communities. They are a dedicated part of the American manufacturing workforce at a time when manufacturers have more open jobs than people to fill them.
Finding a permanent solution for Dreamers and individuals with TPS is essential, but we cannot stop there.
Americans know our broken immigration system cannot be ignored any longer. It’s a complex challenge, but manufacturers are never ones to avoid big challenges. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories tackles them every day. The company invents, designs and builds digital products and systems that protect power grids around the world. There’s nothing easy about that, just like there’s nothing easy about solving immigration.
Ultimately, the right immigration solution takes the best ideas from across the political spectrum, includes compromise and focuses on upholding our core American values. We are a nation of immigrants. We are an exceptional nation because of the contributions of those who have come to America in search of a better life, and we will remain exceptional if we have a modern, functioning immigration system.
There’s been enough debate and disagreement. It is time for consensus and action. It is time for A Way Forward.
Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer III is president, chairman of the board and CTO of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.
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