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Avoiding GOP Immigration Reform Self-Sabotage, Pt. 4: The Chamber of Commerce

It's hard to think of a more important member of the Republican establishment than the Chamber of Commerce. The very GOP Immigration Reformname conjures up Republican cultural values and economic goals — business, the free enterprise system, industriousness, delay of gratification, risk taking, resilience — even profit and economic mobility.

The Chamber's enumeration of policy priorities for 2014 is a rather extensive list that runs 29 pages and includes such hearty business perennials as regulation, capital accumulation, deficits and the debt, and many other traditional economic concerns.

Almost all of these items have been at the center of Republican Party concerns over many years and, in turn, the Chamber has given substantial support to the party and especially those members who have mirrored their basic interests.

Given that long and mutually beneficial relationship and the coincidence of policy and values between the two, the Chamber's threat to cut off support to the Republican Party if they did not immediately pass immigration reform this year was as empty as it was startling.

Speaking at an event on infrastructure investment, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said of the GOP — referring to passing immigration legislation — "If the Republicans don't do it, they shouldn't bother to run a candidate in 2016." The news story that reported that statement was titled, "Chamber of Commerce gives ultimatum to GOP".

The story characterized Mr. Donohue's threat as him "joking", and he was immediately quoted as saying thereafter, "I just did that to get everybody's attention." He apparently has a subtle sense of humor.

His threat is an attempt to pressure the GOP into supporting the Chamber's immigration wish list, whose essential focus is the vast expansion of new visas for low- and high-skilled workers.

A look at the Chamber's policy priorities for 2014 gives a flavor of the breadth of their concerns — ranging from more skilled workers to more low-skilled workers. The Chamber will:

  • Strongly oppose bills that cripple the current nonimmigrant worker visa systems and fail to include a mechanism to ensure that businesses have a future flow of workers to fill jobs when Americans are not available.

  • Oppose legislation that imposes unworkable and inconsistent electronic employment verification systems.

  • Advocate for continuing and expanding both temporary and permanent visa programs for highly skilled workers (including L-1 and H-1B as well as EB green cards) to ensure that employers are able to compete for global talent to remain competitive, including creating a new STEM green card category.

  • Secure additional essential workers to counteract demographic trends, provide for targeted earned legalization of those essential undocumented workers already here, challenge burdensome new regulations of H-2B nonagricultural worker programs, and support creation of workable agricultural and non-seasonal, lesser-skilled worker programs.

  • Make certain that any immigration reform package contains strong language ensuring a future flow program so that U.S. companies will be able to hire legal immigrant workers in a timely fashion.

I believe its possible to detect a theme here.

The Chamber is, of course, absolutely within its rights and its purpose as a business organization to advocate for more and more skilled and unskilled workers on top of the one million-plus new legal immigrants who arrive here each year. However, they should at least do so honestly.

Mr. Renshon has been a Center Fellow since 1999 and an expert in the areas of citizenship, national identity and the psychology of immigration. He has testified before Congress several times on these matters and has assisted government net assessments in these areas.

More of Mr. Renshon's writings can be found on his CIS blog here.

Source: Center for Immigrartion Studies

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