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Immigration and 2016
The Battle of the Billionaires

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is squaring off against Donald Trump in a battle of the billionaires on immigration. Unfortunately, Zuckerberg couldn’t have chosen worse grounds on which to fight. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Fwd.us, a group founded by Mr. Zuckerberg and others to lobby for issues issues important to the tech industry such as immigration reform, Wednesday argued in favor of increasing, not decreasing, the number of H-1B visas. Silicon Valley companies rely on the visas to bring in foreign engineers. Such a move would be beneficial to the U.S. economy, Fwd.us President Todd Schulte wrote in a blog post.[…]

Mr. Schulte was responding to Mr. Trump’s immigration plan, released Sunday. Mr. Trump said foreign workers are using the H-1B program to take jobs away from Americans, and he wants to raise the wages paid to H-1B holders to make it less attractive to employers. Mr. Trump named Mr. Zuckerberg in his plan.

This kind of response to Trump only underlines the failures of both sides of the immigration debate. As TAI Staff Writer Nicholas M. Gallagher explained in his insightful column on Thursday (if you haven’t read it, do):

Both parties have botched the case for increased legal immigration. Business-friendly Republicans have allowed it to be sullied by supporting measures like the H-1B and H-2 visas, which tie the visas of foreign workers to their employers. If workers holding these visas quit, or are fired, they have to leave the country. As I’ve written before, these visas hit the trifecta of bad policy: they’re used to displace American workers at cheaper rates, they facilitate exploitation of the immigrants in question, and they deprive the national economy of the full dynamism unfettered immigrants offer. Such measures divert political momentum from healthy reform and confirm the worst suspicions of the antis.

Zuckerberg isn’t a Republican, but that critique also applies to business-friendly immigration advocates like the Facebook founder. The optics on this are terrible. Trump’s message is that immigration is a con game rigged by big business and government against the little guy and Silicon Valley billionaires have chosen to respond by doubling down on support for the very visa type that, certifiably, really does hurt the little guy. As they say on Sports Center: Are you kidding me?

The shame of Fwd.us’ response is that Trump’s plan really is vulnerable to attack on so many other fronts, particularly from a group with resources to match his. And, what’s more, there are some really good ideas in the Fwd.us plan, including long-overdue recognition of the role start-ups play in American business in the 21st century. But in order to be able to make good policy, you first have to win the messaging battle—and, here, the old-school carnival barker is schooling the social media guru.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    “Trump’s message is that immigration is a con game rigged by big business and government against the little guy and Silicon Valley billionaires have chosen to respond by doubling down on support for the very visa type that, certifiably, really does hurt the little guy.”

    Ooooh. Is Mr. Trump not really on the guest worker bandwagon? Good heavens, Republicans. Man the battle stations (as if you’re not already.)

    • CapitalHawk

      Man the battle stations in favor of Trump’s (anti) immigration policy paper? Will do!

    • Page Mike

      Watch and listen here to Donald Trump respond to questions about “anchor babies” and deportation from an irate reporter supposedly representing Univision: http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-ejected-a-prominent-journalist-from-a-press-conference-2015-8

      Trump does not sound like a man on the defensive – he sounds like a candidate that knows he is the only one supporting a commonsense solution to a very serious Economic and National Security problem.

  • Nevis07

    What Zuckerberg (and his employees) have said will only further entrench Trumps supporters further on this issue. Republican voters need to be given an immigration policy that both strengthens (and enforces) immigration laws, but also is wrapped in pragmatic language rather than one that is simply populist at best and xenophobic at worst, while simultaneously pointing out that there is nothing wrong with wanting to secure our borders. Trump can whip up the base and even some independents with what seems to be a common sense issue that even many of those on the left agree is a problem; but come general election, the Republicans will get hammered on this issue if they don’t have message based in humility rather than fear.

    • Page Mike

      You are whistling Dixie if you believe that any candidate can withstand the force of the anti-illegal immigration wave that is still forming. It (the Wave) does not respect party or incumbent. Look at how Eric Cantor – Republican Majority Whip was taken down by a no-name, first time political novice who “gasp!” was a college economics professor. If you don’t see that the issue is poison to incumbents or career politicians seeking higher office – you truly are blind. The results of the first Republican Presidential debate in Cleveland a few weeks ago bear out the truth of my assertion. No one but Trump has profited from the immigration debate – because he and only he is in sync with the broad public on the issue. Zuckerberg and his ilk can pound sand until the cows come home – the louder that Trump gets on halting illegal immigration – the more likely it is that he’ll be in the finals of this contest.

      • CapitalHawk

        Yes, exactly this. I’ve decided to support Trump (even though he I regard him as an irritating blowhard) because he is the ONLY candidate in either party that is clearly and unabashedly arguing to stop illegal immigration and limit legal immigration as well.

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