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Chamber of Commerce Demands Immigration Reform

There are many divisions within the Republican party right now, but one of the biggest is the division between the pro-business types and those trying to appeal to their largely xenophobic, anti-immigrant base. The Chamber of Commerce seems to be throwing down the gauntlet on the issue.

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the GOP shouldn’t even field a presidential candidate in 2016 unless Congress passes immigration reform this year.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” Donohue joked at an event on infrastructure investment in D.C. “Think about that. Think about who the voters are. I just did that to get everybody’s attention.”

Donohue, whose group has spent months pushing House Republicans to support immigration reform, was speaking about what he thought a dysfunctional Congress could still get done in 2014.

“You think Congress can get immigration reform done this year, in an election year?” moderator Eamon Javers asked Donohue.

“Yes, yes,” Donohue replied.

National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons said he also thought immigration reform could pass this year, perhaps in a lame-duck session.

“This is a unified position of the business community,” Timmons said.

Yes, but it clashes completely with the conservative base, which rails against “establishment” Republicans who are, in their view, selling out the country by daring to treat immigrants like actual human beings. It’s a classic battle between money and ideology. And it’s going to be fun to watch.


  1. John Pieret says

    It’s a classic battle between money and ideology.

    It’s been going on throughout the primary season and, so far, money seems to be winning. With any luck, the Tea Partiers will resume their proper place in some dark corner once occupied by the John Birch Society.

  2. eric says

    IMO these guys are crazy if they think the 113th Congress (well, the Republicans thereof) will support immigration reform. Too many Tea Party GOPs sitting in office for that to happen.

    If the GOP suffers big defeats this November which can be linked to immigrant voting, then I could see the Republicans in the 114th Congress supporting immigration reform to help position the party for the 2016 Presidential race (as well as their own re-elections). But I really don’t think Congressional Republicans are going to support it in great numbers until after their party receives an electoral smack upside the head.

  3. Chris J says

    Shouldn’t immigration reform make it more difficult for businesses to higher workers at super low wages? I thought that the “illegal” part of illegal immigrants meant that either the workers worked for less than minimum wage or they complained about it and were deported for being illegal.

    If illegal immigrants had a path to citizenship, wouldn’t they gain protection under the law for sub-standard wages?

  4. says

    They already tried, picking Immigration Reform because they thought it was the easiest Big Issue to resolve. It worked so well that Marco Rubio came out against his own bill.

  5. says

    Isn’t John Boehner already on record as saying that immigration ain’t gonna happen in this president’s term? Why would they, the Democrats would get all the credit and give the enemy a boost in the next election.

  6. DaveL says

    Of course business supports immigration. It helps keep wages down.

    Illegal immigration keeps wages down more, by ensuring employers have something to hold over their employees’ heads, and by keeping those employees outside the protection of the law.

  7. eric says

    @4 and @7 – depends on the sector, I think. If you’re a farmer, you don’t want legal immigration of your fruit-pickers because what you pay them under the table is probably lower than the minimum wage. OTOH if you’re a silicon valley engineering firm, you absolutely want more H-1B visas and easier immigration because minimum legal wages are irrelevant; you are looking to increase supply of the expert labor you need, in order to drive down average salary.

  8. D. C. Sessions says

    If the GOP suffers big defeats this November which can be linked to immigrant voting,

    The the big push will be to keep immigrants (including those whose ancestors came in on slave ships) from voting in 2016.

    The thing is, employers are the “black vote” of the Republican Party. The Party can ignore them and pander to the fringe because the employers have nowhere else to go.

  9. Trebuchet says

    Illegal immigration keeps wages down more, by ensuring employers have something to hold over their employees’ heads, and by keeping those employees outside the protection of the law.

    A valid point. But I think ALL immigration helps suppress wages. More legal immigration might help big companies, which have to be careful about whom they hire, compete with smaller ones that aren’t so picky.

  10. busterggi says

    “It’s a classic battle between money and ideology.”

    Nope, there won’t be a battle. The money will pay the right-wing echo chamber to push big business’ agenda and after its done the cons will claim it was always their goal.

  11. says

    @ 8,
    Actually, immigrants doing hand-harvesting receive above minimum wage as they are paid by the amount they pick rather than a set rate. Those who are fast can make much more.
    A couple of years ago, when labor was scarce in Georgia due to the state’s newly implemented draconian illegal-immigrant law, they had state probationers come in to do farm work. Those guys, as part of their being out and about in the free world, are required to take any work they can get. Many of them said “Fuck it” after one morning in the fields. Farmers told me they received minimum wage because they did the minimum work, while those who hailed from south of the border made more.
    At the time, farmers were exempt from the new law’s provision on documenting legal status, so many of the latter could have been in the country illegally.

  12. says

    This is a meaningless gesture. If the CoC is to be taken seriously, then they should instead be saying If the GOP does not pass an immigration bill this year, we will support no GOP candidates in 2016

    All this does is make the CoC look reasonable (look, even Ed gave them a shout out) when they do nothing to help the cause of anyone but big business.

  13. Zugswang says

    When George W. Bush was in office, he was practically begging the GOP to support comprehensive immigration reform in 06-07, but even with a republican president, their entrenched xenophobia wouldn’t allow them to act in what was ultimately in the best interests of their party and, more importantly, the country. (and yes, I realize that bill was opposed by many left-leaning politicians for different reasons, as well)

    Assuming the House doesn’t switch majorities after midterms (which is a pretty safe bet, unfortunately), if congress manages to pass any kind of positive, substantive immigration reform before 2016, I’ll eat my hat.

  14. says

    Don’t expect this “unified community” to put up much of a fight here — they’ll find ways to adapt to either outcome. If they get the reform they want, they’ll have more legal workers to choose from; and if they don’t, they’ll still have a sizeable pool of illegal workers. Either way, they’ll have a labor surplus, and can keep wages low — and besides, a “reform” package is likely to include a few loopholes to spare bidnessmen the horrible trauma of having to give immigrant workers the full benefits that actual citizens expect. Like maybe a new kind of visa that grants immigrants the ability to enter US turf and work like dogs without getting arrested, but doesn’t change their legal standing in any other way.

  15. says

    When George W. Bush was in office, he was practically begging the GOP to support comprehensive immigration reform in 06-07…

    Not leading, not actually sticking his neck out, not knocking heads together or forcing a concensus like he (or rather, his appointees) did WRT Iraq. Just “begging.” Almost.

  16. doublereed says

    Considering Rubio staked his whole presidential bid on it and failed miserably, and considering Bush’s failure to do so, I think it’s pretty clear that the GOP is too nativist to think rationally about immigration.

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    … “establishment” Republicans who are … daring to treat immigrants like actual human beings.

    If by “human beings” you mean “farm machinery, domestic slaves, scabs, and spare parts for sweatshop labor”…

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