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Forging a New Consensus on Immigration; Faith, Business, Law Enforcement Leaders Call for Immigration Reform

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donohueEarlier this month, the US Chamber of Commerce announced that it was making immigration reform—with a roadmap to citizenship—a top priority this year, and today, Chamber president Tom Donohue joined faith, law enforcement, immigrant rights, and other business leaders to call on Congress to speedily pass immigration legislation.

Donohue opened the press conference today by emphasizing the importance of immigration to the economy (see also: Grover Norquist’s speech to Kansas lawmakers yesterday):

Immigration isn’t a problem to be solved.  It’s an [economic] opportunity to be seized.  Our current immigration policies have caps that have no basis in the real world.  Even with high unemployment, we have millions of job openings that go unfilled. Either the workers come here to fill them or, let me tell you, those jobs go somewhere else–and take existing jobs with them.

The event was organized by Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America, a project of the National Immigration Forum, and also featured Carlos Gutierrez, Vice Chairman of Citigroup, Attorney General Gregory F. Zoeller (R) from Indiana; Barrett Duke, Vice President for Public Policy and Research, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Ambasssador Johnny Young, the Executive Director of the Migration and Refugee Services of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.

The coalition stressed the fact that despite their disparate backgrounds and interests, they were committed to pressing Congress for meaningful immigration reform—that works for laborers and employers and puts an end to the “humanitarian issue” immigrants face—this year.

“We will not let up, we will stay on immigration reform until Congress does the right thing by the 11 million immigrants here in our country,” said the Southern Baptist Convention’s Barrett Duke.

“The status quo of immigration in this country is a fundamental loser,” said Donohue.

While the press conference panel mostly stayed away from specific policy prescriptions, preferring to adhere to broad principles, they made it clear that the mass-deportation of aspiring Americans already living in the country was unreasonable and intolerable.  As Carlos Gutierrez of Citigroup said, “I would be incredibly embarrassed as a US citizen if we were to try and forcibly deport the 11 million immigrants already here.”

And some of the panelists emphasized the fact that, whatever else immigration reform contains, the creation of a roadmap to citizenship is a necessity.

“Would the party of Lincoln sanction a bill that creates a permanent underclass [of immigrants]?” asked Johnny Young of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  “I wold hope not.  Immigration reform must include an automatic path to citizenship.  We cannot withhold the full rights that citizens possess.”