Chamber Urges Congress to Pursue President's Immigration Proposal
January 27, 2004
TO MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
On behalf of the United States Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses, we wish to express our strong support for comprehensive immigration reform and the President's immigration reform initiative.
The President has acknowledged the need to fix a broken immigration system and that we must address not only future workforce needs, but also the status of those already here who are working and contributing to our economy. His proposal makes an effort to streamline the process by which employers who cannot find U.S. workers may hire foreign nationals through temporary worker programs while ensuring that the workers would have appropriate labor protections. It also makes clear that undocumented workers could obtain legal status, work and stay in the U.S. for at least three years, and may ultimately pursue a green card based on family or employer sponsorship.
The Chamber favors immigration reform to support our economy. Demographic data show that our domestic workforce is aging and shrinking. By 2010 the average age of our workforce will be 40, and the prime working age population, ages 25-34 will actually decline. At the same time our economy continues to create substantial numbers of entry-level, low-skill jobs: 7 out of 10 jobs today require only on-the-job training and 6 of the top 10 occupations with the largest job growth over the next ten years will be in the same category. An economy cannot expand without an adequate workforce supply, and a growing economy helps employers and workers of all types. Expanded, practical temporary worker programs will help meet this need.
At the same time, we must address the situation of undocumented workers. True, they came here illegally, but they are filling many jobs in this country, mostly very low skilled, which need to be done—particularly in the manual labor and service industries—and we need to recognize this fact. Moreover, this country is simply not going to round up millions of people and deport them. This is a reality that we must deal with. The nation will be better off, both as a matter of national security and common sense, knowing who these individuals are and having them working on the books under their own legal names and social security numbers. Further, they will be less subject to abuse by exploitive employers and will be able to bargain for better wages and working conditions, which will help immigrant and American workers.
The Administration has stated that it intends to work with Congress to draft legislation embodying the President's proposal. As we have seen with many other pieces of legislation, compromises and changes will have to be made as the process moves forward, but the President's proposal provides a bedrock of principles to guide this debate. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress over the coming months as immigration reform progresses.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce