U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushes House GOP on immigration reform

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is renewing its push for immigration reform, making the economic case for an overhaul of border control laws to pressure House Republicans to act on legislation this year.

Chamber President Thomas J. Donohue posted a blog on the organization's Web site  Monday, and 636 business organizations signed onto a letter from the chamber to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday. The businesses included Facebook, Caterpillar, Halliburton and Hewlett-Packard.


Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, speaks in Washington in January. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

"Failure to act is not an option," the letter stated. "We cannot afford to be content and watch a dysfunctional immigration system work against our overall national interest. In short, immigration reform is an essential element of a jobs agenda and economic growth. It will add talent, innovation, investment, products, businesses, jobs, and dynamism to our economy."

The Chamber played an instrumental role in the development of a comprehensive immigration bill approved by the Senate last June. After intensive negotiations between the Chamber and the AFL-CIO over expanded visa programs for high- and low-skilled workers, both sides supported the final legislation, which Senate negotiators considered a crucial compact to help win bipartisan support. In the end, 68 senators, including 14 Republicans, voted in favor of that bill.

But with immigration stalled in the House, the Chamber is again seeking use its influence with the usually business-friendly GOP to move forward on immigration principles laid out by Boehner last month at the caucus retreat. The speaker has since said the House is unlikely to act this year.

In his blog post, Donohue said businesses are in need of more foreign workers and a new electronic verification system that would help weed out undocumented workers. And he made an oblique reference to GOP concerns about tackling a difficult vote on immigration ahead of the midterm elections this fall.

"The political landscape isn’t going to be any more conducive to reform in two years or four years," Donohue wrote. "For too long, the can has been kicked down the road. And while we’ve failed to act, the problem has only grown worse."

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.
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