Jul 16, 2014 - 10:15am

Rush, Here’s What Tom Donohue Really Said About Immigration Reform

Senior Editor, Digital Content

Rush Limbaugh may be “right 99.7% of the time,” but he’s wrong for distorting U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue on immigration reform.

Here’s Limbaugh’s version of a quote from Donohue earlier this year:

If you don't do amnesty, you may as well not even nominate a candidate in 2016, cause none of us are gonna give any Republican any money if they don't do this.

Now, here’s what Donohue really said, as reported by Politico [emphasis mine]:

“If the Republicans don’t do it [pass immigration reform], 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.”

Big difference.

The actual quote doesn’t mention “amnesty” or any kind of political threat. The U.S. Chamber does not support amnesty and never has. Donohue made a positive statement, not a normative one. He pointed out that not passing immigration reform wouldn’t be smart politics.

Putting on my Glenn Kessler hat, I give Limbaugh three Pinocchios for stretching Donohue’s quote like a kid stretches Silly Putty.

Limbaugh’s mangling offers me a chance to cut through some of the misinformed chatter, tweets, and distortions and remind friends and critics about the U.S. Chamber’s immigration reform priorities:

  • Strengthening border security.
  • Improving the E-Verify system and employment verification.
  • Ensuring the availability of workers—high-skilled, lesser-skilled, and agricultural workers--when employers experience labor shortages.
  • Providing a means for undocumented workers to earn lawful status by getting a background check and paying any fines and back taxes owed.

Americans want our broken immigration system fixed. Broad, meaningful reforms, consistently supported by the public, will result in a rational immigration system that benefits the country, as Donohue wrote recently:

Immigration reform would help revitalize our economy by raising the GDP, boosting productivity, and attracting investment from around the world. It would spur innovation and entrepreneurship. It would create jobs for immigrant and native-born workers alike. Reform would also help address our demographic realities and slash the federal deficit.

We must reform our system so that we can reassert our competitiveness. For the United States to build a 21st century workforce in a global economy—and for businesses to have access to the employees they need to compete and succeed—we must welcome the world’s talent to our shores.

Healthy debate is important in a democracy, but it must be based on facts, not distorted quotes. The fact is the United States is engaged in a global competition for talent. Without immigration reform, we will fall behind, putting our economy and American jobs at risk.

You can quote me on that.

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.