Business leaders pressure Congress for immigration changes

Bipartisan coalition wants to see path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in Democrats’ reconciliation bill

Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona is among Democrats who will be “a key focus in who we’re trying to put maximum pressure on in Congress to help us get this done,” said ABIC's co-chair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona is among Democrats who will be “a key focus in who we’re trying to put maximum pressure on in Congress to help us get this done,” said ABIC's co-chair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted August 13, 2021 at 4:00pm

A bipartisan coalition of business leaders announced a nationwide campaign Friday to push Democrats to include in their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants and deliver on long-promised revisions to the U.S. immigration system.

Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, described the campaign as a “coast-to-coast” effort with a “seven-figure” price tag that will make the case that “immigration reform is urgent, bipartisan and belongs in the budget reconciliation.”

ABIC will host virtual and in-person events, post paid and organic social media, meet with elected officials and release reports regarding the economic impact of legislation legalizing undocumented immigrants. The campaign will stretch until the fall, when Democrats are expected to unveil the legislative text of the reconciliation bill.

ABIC will also highlight stories from individual workers and employers highlighting the need for legalization, Shi said. The campaign will be carried out in 15 states across the U.S. where ABIC’s employers are seeing labor shortages, according to Shi.

“After decades of waiting, our economy, the business community, workers and families simply cannot wait any longer,” she said.

Democrats hope to pass a path to permanent status for certain categories of undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the U.S. as children, farmworkers and other essential workers, through the budget reconciliation process.

Instructions to include such a provision in the reconciliation bill were included in the $3.5 trillion budget plan adopted by the Senate this week. The House is to take up the plan the week of Aug. 23. 

However, Democrats’ ability to pass immigration measures as part of reconciliation will hinge on an eventual determination from the Senate parliamentarian on whether such provisions comply with Senate reconciliation rules, which limit provisions to those affected by federal spending and revenue.

ABIC Co-Chair Bob Worsley, the founder of Skymall and a retired Arizona Republican state senator, said immigration is an “economic prosperity issue” and the “perfect candidate for budget reconciliation.” Other ABIC leaders include current or former leaders of companies such as Crate and Barrel, United Airlines, Bank of America and Greenberg Traurig.

Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, both more moderate Democrats from Arizona, will be “a key focus in who we’re trying to put maximum pressure on in Congress to help us get this done,” said Worsley.

Worsley said ABIC has met with 41 Republican senators, and he does not see a bipartisan path forward.

“We prefer bipartisanship, but we do not see a good faith bipartisan negotiation coming from the Republicans because they have concluded it’s a good political wedge issue for 2022 midterms,” Worsley said. “Any bipartisanship traction we had just a few weeks ago has been lost.”

The campaign announcement comes several days after ABIC led a letter with Republicans and business leaders to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders expressing their “strong support for the inclusion of common sense immigration solutions in the budget reconciliation legislation.”

Signatories of that letter included Al Cardenas, the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Jeb Bush Jr. and Jim Edgar, a former Republican governor of Illinois.