U.S. Chamber Spearheads Effort to Pass Immigration Bill

Photograph by Anthony Behar/Sipa via AP Images

Immigrants stand during the playing of the National Anthem at a U.S. naturalization ceremony in New York, on April 17, 2013 at 26 Federal Plaza.

Supporters of the new immigration bill are undertaking efforts to push the measure through Congress and onto the president’s desk.

Tom Donohue, president the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby, said the proposal meets the goals of  “four critical components—increased border security, expansion of temporary worker programs and employer-sponsored green cards, some type of pathway to legalization and eventual citizenship under tight criteria, and a balanced and workable employment verification system.”

Even before the legislation was introduced in the Senate today, the U.S. chamber held dozens of events in congressional districts when Congress was out of session for the Easter/Passover recess. Last week, the chamber joined hundreds of  businesses and local chambers in support of immigration legislation. The letter was sent to every member of the House and Senate.

“Immigration reform provides a way to jump start our economy and create jobs in the United States, recognizing that immigrants are key to the economic success of this country,” the letter said. “We support reform that will improve our competitiveness, attract and retain the best talent and the workers we need, secure our borders, and keep faith with America’s legacy as an open and welcoming society.”

Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of immigration and civic engagement for the Washington-based National Council of La Raza, said the push for immigration legislation now is a direct result of the successful efforts to register Hispanics and get them to the polls last year.

“Expanding the Latino electorate is an important piece of the puzzle,” Martinez said. “Latino voters created the game-changing moment, opening the door to having a real constructive debate on this issue. The game-changing moment was not a static occurrence.”

Martinez said Hispanic groups are still registering voters.

La Raza brought in about 300 community leaders from 32 states last month to discuss immigration and meet with members of Congress. Those leaders are back in their communities, helping constituents contact their lawmakers and urge them to support immigration legislation. In addition, groups are using e-mail and text messaging to contact supporters. And La Raza, an umbrella group of community-based organizations, held tele-town halls with registered Hispanic voters to discuss the issue.

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