The long-simmering immigration debate has erupted in recent weeks into a fierce political fight that could determine the fates of nearly a million people living and working in the U.S. It also has enormous implications for the strength of our workforce, the health of our economy, and the future of legal immigration in America. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging our leaders to find common ground on this complex and emotionally charged issue and take steps toward an immigration system that will serve our 21st century economy—not undermine it.
As the first order of business, Congress must act to address the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently protects nearly 700,000 young people who were brought here as children through no fault of their own. The March 5 deadline for action on DACA is rapidly approaching. In addition, well over 200,000 Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries face deportation, and roughly 30,000 spouses of high-skilled visa holders will have their right to legally work in the U.S. taken away. Altogether, we could lose close to 1 million hardworking individuals from the workforce.
The good news is that real and substantive conversations to address these challenges are taking place—many on a bipartisan basis. Multiple proposals are being discussed on Capitol Hill, and the White House has unveiled a plan that includes a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, increased border security, and other provisions.
The bad news is that some in Washington are using this as an opportunity to substantially reduce legal immigration. A new study by the Cato Institute estimates that the White House immigration plan would curb legal immigration by 44% this year and reduce the number of legal immigrants working in our economy by 22 million over the next five decades. This would spell disaster for our economy.
As the debate rages on, it is critical that the business community helps explain why legal immigration supports economic growth and increased prosperity for everyone, including American workers. Continuing our efforts to better equip Americans to compete and thrive in today’s economy remains a huge priority, but we must also be realistic about the need for foreign workers at all skill levels.
Demographics are destiny. With unemployment at 4% and falling, and as 10,000 baby boomers retire every day, immigrants can fill growing gaps in our workforce. That’s why the Chamber will continue to advocate for commonsense immigration reform as part of any effort to expand and strengthen America’s workforce to compete in a modern global economy.