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Cuban Americans benefited from one of the most generous immigration policies in the history of the United States. This model has proven over the past 64 years that it was the economic and humanitarian right thing to do.
Our nation has been facing an immigration crisis for years. Now, with media outlets competing for audiences by offering the most scandalous coverage possible, voters are again demanding solutions.
We need bold leadership to guide us toward practical results, not scapegoating and divisive rhetoric.
Visionary leaders should see the immigrants not as a challenge, but as an opportunity to strengthen our economy. Throughout the world, there are crises of war, crime, economic collapse and natural disaster driving people from their homes in search of safety and survival.
Their quest for peace and prosperity leads them to our unique American Dream. As we have done throughout our history, America should welcome this current wave of immigrants and seize this moment while we have the chance.
Our economy is desperate for new talent from top to bottom. In practically every state, there are more jobs than people looking for work.
Meanwhile, we have thousands of unskilled and skilled, intelligent, motivated people begging to be a part of our great country. These two situations provide us with a great opportunity, if real leaders are ready to champion proposed solutions.
One proposal would require Congress to give states the flexibility to issue work permits to immigrants who can fill the jobs employers need.
Another option is the bipartisan Dignity Act recently introduced by Florida Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar and Texas Democrat Veronica Escobar.
It would let U.S. citizens request a waiver of inadmissibility for a non-citizen spouse, with an immigration judge making the final decision. Under their plan, the immigrants would pay a total of $10,000 for their path to citizenship.
These sensible solutions are key to addressing America’s labor shortages and lowering inflation according to a study published by the American Business Immigration Coalition and Texas A& M University.
In Florida, short-term agricultural and hospitality industry workers are in great demand. So are our construction, healthcare, technology and practically every other industry.
Our current workforce is rapidly aging, forecasting a critical shortage in jobs at long-term nursing facilities, utilities and other service industries.
I am intimately familiar with the issues facing immigrants.
As a child in pre-Fidel Castro Cuba, I watched my father work hard, starting and running several successful businesses, all to make a better life for his family.
As the Castro communist regime took over, we fled Cuba, leaving everything behind. When I was 12, we made our way to Mexico, then eventually New York, where I worked odd jobs to help pay for my education.
After proudly serving in the U.S. Army, I found my home in Florida and have built a career of which my parents would be proud.
I am one of millions of immigrants who embraced our new country, paid taxes, and helped make Miami what it is today — a vibrant, thriving, multicultural community of entrepreneurs and hard workers.
Miami is the envy of cities around the world. We must find ways for immigrants to enter the United States legally and apply for work permits so they can help sustain our economy.
I’m not naive enough to think that, with all the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric being spewed in Tallahassee, we will see a complete reversal of Florida’s immigration policies.
Unfortunately, the politically driven fear-mongering in the state is driving immigrants into the shadows, hurting our communities and depriving businesses of the skilled workers needed to keep growing.
However, if every state is given the option to sponsor employable immigrants, and we see great success, perhaps someone in Tallahasee will figure out that demonizing immigrants drives them away, damaging our economy and communities, but allowing them to have work permits helps us grow.
The brave one who tries to fill this leadership vacuum will be excoriated. Yet, that is the definition of leadership — not doing what is easy, but doing what is right.
Opportunity is knocking loudly at our borders. Where are the leaders wise enough to answer?
Michael “Mike” B. Fernandez is chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners.