Colin Powell: GOP 'can't be anti-immigration.'

The decorated son of immigrants speaks out about the need for more immigration.

William B. Plowman / NBC / AP
Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, retired, speaks on NBC's "Meet the Press" in Washington, Sept. 19. While most media coverage has focused on his statements about President Obama and the GOP, he raised interesting points about the role of immigration in the economy.

The General's comments on President Obama will make the headlines, but his support for immigration reform is what I find noteworthy, especially in light of confirming his membership in the GOP:

“[Republicans] have got to take a hard look at some of the positions they’ve been taking,” Powell said. “We can’t be anti-immigration, for example. Because immigrants are fueling this country. Without immigrants [the U.S.] would be like Europe or Japan, with an aging population and no young people coming in to take care of it. We have to educate our immigrants.”

Powell, the son of immigrants who rose through the ranks of the Army, said that Congress should approve the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who attend college for two years or join the military.

I still find myself frustrated with the general hostility to immigration. In a world where ever more jobs are in the service sector, particularly the virtual service sector, what is the difference between free trade and immigration? And what is the economically coherent argument against free trade?

Although I tend to favor systematic fundamentals, I think Bob Litan is right that the easiest way to boost jobs in the U.S. is to lower the barriers for immigration, particularly in terms of a job creator's visa. Now THAT would be a sweet lame duck bill.

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