A Pro-American Reform

There’s no question about it: in Washington and across the nation, the potential for holding a debate soon on immigration reform is increasing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently declared that, along with health reform and energy policy, the immigration issue is a top priority for Congress this year. And although the White House has twice canceled bipartisan meetings with congressional leaders that would be the first step towards paving the way for an official discussion on comprehensive reform, I am convinced that this meeting will be held soon.

One of the recent events that helped fuel this optimism was the announcement, earlier this month, of the establishment of a national campaign to promote a comprehensive reform of the immigration system. This campaign  (whose slogan is “pro-America immigration reform” and has the backing of a broad coalition of civil rights groups, churches, and business and trade associations throughout the country) is especially important, as it proposes a set of consistent and common sense principles that should guide the development of a reform bill. Moreover, the campaign has a real potential to define the debate in Washington, as many of its members are in close contact with the country’s political leadership and they also pro-actively consulted the White House and key members of Congress when developing their proposal.

This campaign acknowledges, firstly, that to fix the immigration system the solutions presented should not be based on a “band aid” approach. For example, we cannot focus exclusively on security measures enforced at the border, while ignoring the plight of millions of immigrants who are good and hardworking people that live in our country illegally, because these two issues have an impact on each other. Therefore, the solution must be a comprehensive one that addresses all intricacies of this matter. Anything else would be unacceptable.

For the promoters of this campaign, a true comprehensive reform must include a path to the legalization of 12 million illegal immigrants, but it should also enhance efforts to guarantee this country’s security. However, security resources should focus only on people involved in criminal activities that pose a threat to peace and security in our communities.

The campaign also emphasizes the need to promote the integration of immigrants, an issue often overlooked in discussions about immigration. While we recognize we are a nation of immigrants, with a wide variety of cultures and traditions, we should also help immigrants learn English and study and identify with the political principles and history that bind us together as Americans.

Lastly -and perhaps this is the issue which ensures that this is in fact a genuine solution- the campaign suggests that we acknowledge the needs of our job market so that we can bring the foreign workers we need from abroad. The document that sets out the campaign principles states the following: “One of the great failures of our current system is that the level of legal immigration is set arbitrarily by Congress —as a product of political compromise— without taking into account the real needs of the labor market”.  And as the level they established is very low, immigration operations outside the legal system have cropped up to meet market demands.

Therefore, the only way to avoid creating a huge community of undocumented immigrants in the country is not by preventing their entry, but rather by facilitating the legal flow of those coming to work and that our economy needs. In short, we need to allocate more visas to allow more immigrants to enter the country. And we want to be very clear on this issue: even in the current recession, our economy needs immigrant workers to carry out jobs that Americans will not do, or for which there are simply no working-age Americans to fill them.

Immigration is not a problem, but rather a need in the United States. I believe that the tenets of this campaign are based on this vision and that is why I support it so whole-heartedly. I will also strive so that my friends and colleagues in positions of leadership, both Republicans and Democrats, shore up this campaign.

There are no acceptable excuses regarding this issue. Civil society has spoken, and survey after survey has demonstrated that the American people also favor a comprehensive reform of our immigration legislation. Now it’s up to the politicians in Washington to act. Don’t let us down!

Position on Immigration

APP’s Latino Partnership supports comprehensive immigration reform that focuses on the following five points:

  1. Strengthen Border Security.  We must continue to strengthen border security to combat drug trafficking and discourage immigrants from risking their lives to cross illegally into the country.
  1. Prioritize Internal Enforcement.  Federal immigration enforcement resources and actions should focus on immigrants involved in criminal activity rather than workplace raids and “audits” that harm both workers and employers.
  1. Legalize the Undocumented.  The vast majority of undocumented immigrants are good, hard working people who are doing jobs Americans do not want or for which there are simply no Americans of working age available.  We should establish a path for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status after paying a penalty for having entered the country illegally.
  1. Create a Guest Worker Program.  Immigrants are not competing with Americans for jobs.  They are doing jobs that are vital to our economy, but that Americans, for various reasons, are not doing.  The economic growth and stability of the nation depends on the capacity of American business and industry to recruit foreign workers as needed.  Current work visa quotas are too limited and have been set arbitrarily by Congress. We must create a Guest Worker Program that allows for the entry of foreign workers as the needs of our economy dictate.
  1. Promote Patriotic Assimilation.  Immigrants who remain in the U.S. as permanent residents as well as those who become citizens should learn English, learn and identify with the principles upon which our country was founded, and study the basics of U.S history.  New Americans’ attachment to the nation and our institutions is essential for the preservation of the social cohesion of our political community.

Health: Fixes and Not Destruction

Mother Taking Care of Sick Daughter

Today nobody questions the need to reform our health system. The cost of medical services continues to rise and every day more and more people lack health coverage. Most Americans need to work harder, and for longer hours a day, to be able to afford health insurance.

Despite this reality, we must also admit that medical services in the United States are of very high quality, and probably the best in the world. We have the best doctors and hospitals, and as regards developing innovative medical technologies, no one surpasses us. So much so, that the vast majority of Americans —about 80%— is satisfied with the quality of our health system. Moreover, thousands of patients arrive from abroad each year to receive medical treatment (most of them from wealthy countries that provide access to medical services to their entire population), precisely because they know how advanced and sophisticated medical services are in the United States.

One wonders, therefore, why is President Obama so obsessed with radically restructuring the whole health system, and in throwing it all overboard, instead of trying to preserve what works and fix what doesn’t? Everyone in Washington is aware that the president and his Democrat colleagues in Congress favor the so-called “public option”, i.e. where any citizen, regardless of their economic status, may opt for health insurance similar to Medicare, provided and managed by the government.

A national health policy would do away with many private insurers, as they would not be able to compete with the government, and whenever there is less competition, this jeopardizes the quality of medical services provided in the country, as well as the ability of citizens to choose their own doctor, hospital, or type of coverage, and would not reduce the cost of services, which is, after all, the root of the problem.

Those who support the idea of the government establishing its own insurance provider, with the subsequent massive bureaucracy involved, argue that this new insurance program would basically work the same as Medicare. However, no mention is made of the fact that the Medicare program is too costly and on the brink of bankruptcy.

On the other hand, a new government bureaucracy would be so inefficient that many physicians would choose not to accept government insurance, or would stop providing medical care services if they do not have access to privately insured patients, which is what happens with Medicare. It would also lead to a rationing of medical care, as happens in Europe, where patients are denied treatment to save money.

The truth is that Obama’s proposal would not fix the system; instead, it would destroy it. The solution is not to implode the system, but rather to make adjustments to the current one to reduce the high cost of medical care and ensure all Americans have access to high quality services.

Instead of dismantling our health care system, I believe that dealing with the conditions that give rise to the high cost of medical services would be much more effective. We know that treating patients with foreseeable health conditions, those caused by obesity for example, costs us billions of dollars each year. In fact, three out of every four dollars spent on medical services are to address chronic diseases, many of them absolutely preventable. That is why a true reform should put measures in place to promote prevention.

We also spend over 200 billion dollars a year on frivolous lawsuits due to medical malpractice. If patients fall victim to a doctor’s malpractice, they should certainly have access to a remedy, but money paid out for claims without merit lead to the rising cost of services, as physicians are required to perform many unnecessary tests and procedures as a defensive measure to try to avoid potential litigation. However, even President Obama strongly opposes the measures required to curb these unfounded lawsuits.

Promoting competition by creating a national market for private health insurance would also lower insurance costs considerably, and would increase the selection of doctors and services patients would have access to. Families, small businesses, community organizations and churches should have the option to buy a cheaper insurance policy in another state in order to have access to doctors and treatments in their own state.

Ensuring all Americans receive adequate medical services is an achievable goal, but this should be accomplished in a smart way. To impose government control over the health system, or have it play a disproportionate role would not solve this issue. On the contrary, it would create new and possibly more severe problems.

The Latino Partnership is Born

We all know that efforts from conservatives to reach out to Hispanics have not been very effective, or at least consistent enough. In more than a few occasions many conservatives have even managed to antagonize Latinos, particularly with their positions on immigration. In fact, the anti-immigrant rhetoric of some conservatives such as J.D. Hayworth and Tom Tancredo has regrettably led many to generalize that all Republicans are anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic, something that is simply not true.

picIt is for this and no other reason that Hispanic voters have favored liberal candidates in recent years. It is certainly not because Latinos are liberal; the values of our community are unquestionably conservative values. Latinos are pro-life and favor traditional marriage. Also, they are very entrepreneurial and pro-business. Latinos are opening business at a rate three times faster than the national average.

Moreover, and contrary to what many Democrats believe, Latinos do not like big government. Hispanics have seen in their own countries the economic stagnation and general poverty that government interventionism begets. That is why they come to the United States. Because they know that in this country, thanks to our constitutional system of limited government and free enterprise, they will find the necessary freedom and opportunity to carve out a better future for themselves. Latinos come here to work, not in search of handouts.

In sum, as Ronald Reagan used to say, Latinos are conservative, but they just don’t know it.

Fortunately, a few days ago an initiative that seeks precisely to revert this situation saw the light of day. In a press conference in Washington, which I had the pleasure of leading, we launched the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a new project which seeks to promote conservative values and ideals within the Latino community, and to integrate Latinos into the conservative movement so they can participate in a more thorough and active manner. The Latino Partnership is an initiative of the American Principles Project (APP), a conservative organization devoted to defending and promoting the fundamental principles on which our country is based.

I’m convinced that if conservatives make an intelligent approach to Hispanics, they will respond favorably. I recognize, however, that in contrast to past efforts, this approach must focus on specific ideas, so that Hispanics can understand that their values are in tune with the conservative message.

It is clear that in order to receive support from Latinos, many conservatives must open up to the Hispanic community. That is why the Latino Partnership will work to educate conservatives about the values and aspirations of Latinos; so that they can realize that Latinos come here to contribute to the social and economic development of the country, and that their ideals coincide with those of conservatives.

First and foremost, many conservatives must change their position on immigration. In this regard the Latino Partnership will fight and press Congress to discuss and approve this year an immigration reform that will do justice to Latinos; that legalizes undocumented immigrants and allows a larger number of migrants to enter the United States to work. We will also press President Obama not to throw in the towel, and to keep his word. And, since this should be a bipartisan effort, we will work to obtain support for an immigration bill from conservative members of Congress and senators.

Furthermore, the Latino Partnership is planning to campaign among Latino voters and will dedicate substantial resources to support candidates that are committed to fundamental conservative ideals and values and also supportimmigration reform. The Latino Partnership has an initial fund of over half a million dollars for this effort. It is a pleasure and an honor to serve as Senior Fellow and Spokesman for the Latino Partnership. Important personalities from politics and entertainment have also joined our initiative. Our Board of Directors, which we have only begun to put together, includes Luis Fortuño, Governor of Puerto Rico; Grover Norquist, conservative activist and President of Americans for Tax Reform; Eduardo Verastegui, the famous actor and producer; and Karyme Lozano, the renowned soap opera actress.

Finally, it is important to point out that through our efforts we will remind the Latino community, and the conservative movement as well, that there are a great many pro-immigration Republicans; that conservative presidents such as Reagan and Bush fought for the approval of legislation in favor of immigrants, ever mindful that the United States is a nation of immigrants that should welcome whomever comes here to work hard and contribute to the improvement of our society. As President Bush used to say, “immigrants make the United States more, not less, American.”