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All Business on Immigration Reform

From Silicon Valley to the Central Valley to the San Fernando Valley, business leaders are closely watching the House of Representatives, where the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, which passed the U.S. Senate in June on a bipartisan 68-32 vote, now awaits action. Should the business community cross its collective fingers and hope the bill dies? Or speak up to support its passage? As a San Fernando Valley volunteer leader of Organizing for Action – the nonpartisan grassroots advocacy group that supports President Obama’s legislative agenda – I’ll answer that question. Fixing our broken immigration system is an urgent priority that will bring fairness to hard-working individuals and significant economic benefits to our state and the nation. Here’s how: The nonpartisan, independent Congressional Budget Office calculated that comprehensive immigration reform will produce more than 10 million new taxpayers. It will deliver $459 billion in new revenues to the U.S. Treasury in the first 10 years. It will add more than $200 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund over the next decade. The bottom line, according to the CBO: comprehensive immigration reform will boost the nation’s gross domestic product by 5.4 percent – or $1.4 trillion – over the next 20 years. The Senate bill calls for a significant increase in border security, with double the number of Border Patrol agents, aerial surveillance drones, and 700 miles more fencing. It also calls for a temporary worker program that give employers access to high- and low-skilled employees for jobs that U.S. workers cannot fill. It provides for strict employment verification that produces reliable eligibility information and stringent penalties on employers or individuals who knowingly hire undocumented workers. And it has an earned pathway to citizenship – not amnesty. According to the California Chamber of Commerce, in a June 17 letter to Congress on behalf of 40 local chambers, resolving the immigration status of California’s 2.6 million undocumented immigrants (23 percent of the nation’s total) would unleash billions of dollars of consumer spending and investment and speed our economic recovery. Muhtar Kent, chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola Co., reminded us that “nearly half of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. Last year, three-quarters of patents coming out of our 10 top research universities were granted to immigrants.” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, called today’s young Dreamers – the name given to young people brought here as children by their undocumented parents – “tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.” He reminded his audience that half of the nation’s top tech companies were founded by immigrants and declared: “I believe it is important for the future of our country to do what’s right.” And on Aug. 5, the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce announced that it “stands with Organizing for Action in its quest to bring attention to the importance of comprehensive immigration reform. … Encouraging businesses to view themselves as an important component of the implementation of comprehensive immigration reform will ultimately enable California to gain an additional $4.6 billion annually.” Last, but not least, conservative hero President Ronald Reagan often spoke in support of immigration reform before signing it into law in 1986: “Illegal immigrants in considerable numbers have become productive members of our society and are a basic part of our work force. … I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally. … Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.” Public opinion is strongly in favor, too. A Brookings-PRRI poll found that 68 percent of Americans favor a bill like the Senate’s, which calls for both stronger enforcement and a path to citizenship, and consider it the best cure for the country’s immigration crisis. The facts are on our side. American citizens want comprehensive immigration reform. Business organizations do too. So it’s a done deal, right? Sadly, no. As the California Chamber said on July 1, “Unfortunately, it appears the U.S. House members from states who have no economic stake in the outcome of immigration reform are dominating the debate. California’s House members need to protect California’s economy and be the dominant voice on immigration reform. …Technology, agriculture and tourism, among others, must have comprehensive immigration reform to thrive.” We all must demand that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform now. It’s the right thing to do for good people who want to live the American dream and contribute to our nation’s future, and it’s good for business. Peter Rothenberg is the San Fernando Valley volunteer leader of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit organization established to support President Barak Obama’s legislative agenda.

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