New York Times
By Julia Preston
September 10, 2013
While Congress was preoccupied with Syria on Tuesday, more than 100 businesses, including some of the nation’s largest companies, sent a letter to leaders of the House of Representatives reminding them not to forget about immigration.
The letter — addressed to House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader — was signed by 110 human resource executives for technology and communications companies like Motorola Solutions, Verizon and AT&T. It was also signed by leaders from companies that have not been prominent players in the immigration debate up to now, including Procter & Gamble, CVS Caremark Corporation, American Express, Allstate Insurance, The Coca-Cola Company, Johnson & Johnson, American Airlines, 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company.
They called on the House to “enact legislation to fix the broken immigration system and work with the Senate to ensure that a bill is signed by the president this year.”
Congress is dealing with the fast-changing debate over a possible military strike against Syria and soon will have to grapple with the federal government’s borrowing limits and budget. The businesses joined an array of supporters of an immigration overhaul who have spoken up this week, as Congress returned formally to Washington, to prod lawmakers to keep that issue on their agenda.
The companies said broad changes to the system would be “a long overdue step toward aligning our nation’s immigration policies with its work force needs at all skill levels to ensure U.S. global competitiveness.” While the companies said a comprehensive bill passed by the Senate in June is “not a perfect measure,” they said they support many ideas in that bill to bring in high-skilled foreign workers. They also called for new visa programs for lower-skilled workers and “a path to legal status” for immigrants in the country illegally.
House leaders have rejected the Senate bill, which includes a 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and sweeping fixes to labor immigration. The House has been preparing a series of smaller measures to repair the system. Many House Republicans are in no hurry to take up immigration because they are wary of giving any legal status to immigrants they regard as lawbreakers and they are concerned about conservative opposition in their districts.
“Every day that goes by this gets more urgent, not less urgent,” said Michele A. Carlin, a vice president for human resources of Motorola Solutions, one of the executives who helped to organize the letter. The companies that signed, she said, were offering many thousands of technology and other lesser-skilled jobs that were going unfilled, despite continuing high unemployment in the country, because of skill mismatches in the American labor force.
“If we want to get this country growing again we have to fill those jobs,” Ms. Carlin said.
The executives signed the letter by name, a variation from many business letters on the thorny issue of immigration, which are signed by companies but not individual corporate leaders.
“We are committed to engaging this fall because we are so close, and it is within our reach,” Ms. Carlin said. “It’s not often that you see such widespread support on an issue of this importance.”
Making the same point, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday re-issued a letter from late July that was signed by more than 450 companies and business groups. “Failure to act is not an option,” that letter said. It was posted in an advertisement on the Politico Web site telling Congress to “enact immigration reform now.”
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