Grover Norquist, the conservative leader of Americans for Tax Reform, said Monday it's time to get serious about targeted immigration reform.
Norquist, in Lincoln to address a dinner hosted by a number of business and civic organizations, zeroed in on reforms that would open the door for high-skilled foreign students who are educated in the United States to remain here along with providing "a significant increase" in work permits.
During an interview prior to his speech, Norquist said he's also open to wider reforms that would allow undocumented immigrants who have settled in the United States to stay here and acquire work permits.
"If they're not violating our laws and are paying their taxes and they're here working, I am open to that," he said.
"What's the alternative?" he asked. "Throw them out?
"We just need to winnow out the bad eggs."
Norquist, best-known as the founder of the political advocacy organization that asks candidates to sign a pledge to oppose any increase in taxes, said the immigration reforms he supports would strengthen the American economy.
"Some people have argued that international students who earn graduate degrees here in engineering and high-tech or entrepreneurial skills should have a green card stapled to their diploma," Norquist said.
"I agree with that. Why push someone like that away?
"They will create jobs. And if we push them out, they will create competing jobs somewhere else."
Many of those students would like to remain in the United States, he said, because "everyone with significant skills can do better here."
"We have to push people away to get people to go somewhere else," Norquist said.
The United States now issues 60,000 high-skilled work visas annually, he said, "when it should be a quarter-million."
"With more liberal immigration rules and low taxes, we can enjoy phenomenal growth," Norquist said.
The dinner event at Lincoln Station was hosted by a number of organizations, including the Nebraska Restaurant Association, the Nebraska Cattlemen Association and the Nebraska Retail Federation.
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