By Douglas L. Whitley
A group of bipartisan leaders of the Illinois business, civic and education communities have joined together to form the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) to urge Congress to pass common sense immigration reform.
The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (illinoisbic.biz) was formed with the goal of securing 300 CEOs and business owners and enlisting the support of 1,000 Illinois businesses to speak to their Congressmen about the significance of adopting immigration reforms this year. The objective is to enlist the support of Illinois’ Congressional Delegation to adopt common sense immigration reform to support Illinois’ economic recovery, provide Illinois companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and promote the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and citizens.
On the basis of the Policy Statement (www.ilchamber.org/government-affairs2/policy-positions/) adopted by the Illinois Chamber’s board of directors at the March quarterly meeting, the Illinois Chamber has officially joined the coalition to demonstrate support for employers’ need for an updated immigration and guest worker program that better reflects contemporary circumstances. Businesses and interested organizations are invited to join the IBIC.
IBIC unites employers, organizations and institutions from across diverse sectors of the Illinois economy – including technology, hospitality, manufacturing, agriculture, education, healthcare, engineering, energy, finance, and real estate – along with immigrant advocates to say with one voice that our nation and our state desperately needs modernized immigration solutions that empower Illinois’ economic competitiveness.
There are other components to common sense reform. IBIC’s members in higher education have seen firsthand the huge potential that undocumented and international students have to contribute to the economy if only allowed – opportunities must be provided for immigrants and foreign students to enter the U.S. and our workforce legally, attracting and keeping the best, the brightest, the highly trained and the most engaging talent.
Stability must be promoted within our immigrant workforce and our immigrant consumer base. We need a thoughtful and streamlined process to legal employment which will ensure that we do not continue to address the same challenges in the future. IBIC supports “a mechanism that responds to the needs of business in a market-driven way, while also fully protecting the wages and working conditions of U.S. and immigrant workers,” in accordance with the joint principles of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO regarding temporary workers.
And finally, we must establish a path to legal status and citizenship for the undocumented currently living in Illinois and the United States to leverage their talent and to facilitate their integration as consumers, workers and entrepreneurs. At its heart, common sense reform simply means a solution based on facts, practical solutions, and real life problem solving for people, businesses and communities.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to a study released by the Immigration Policy Center and Center for American Progress, common sense immigration reform would increase U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by at least 0.84 percent. This would translate into at least a $1.5 trillion cumulative increase in GDP over 10 years, which includes approximately $1.2 trillion in consumption and $256 billion in investment. The higher earning power of newly legalized workers would mean increased tax revenues of $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion in the first three years.
Higher personal income would also generate increased consumer spending—enough to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs in the United States. Experience shows that legalized workers open bank accounts, buy homes and start businesses, further stimulating the U.S. economy.
The American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, has stated that, “In the absence of immigration, the population and overall economy will decline as a result of low U.S. birth rates. A benchmark immigration reform would raise the pace of economic growth by nearly a percentage point over the near term, raise GDP per capita by over $1,500 and reduce the cumulative federal deficit by over $2.5 trillion.”
The United States Senate’s immigration initiative is embodied in S.1. This bill emerged from extensive efforts put forth by the so called “Gang of Eight” that included Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin. The lead sponsors are Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. As of this writing, a House Resolution has yet to emerge in the United States House of Representatives although such a legislative proposal is eagerly anticipated. The Illinois Congressman who is the closest to the development of the immigration legislation that will emerge from the House of Representatives is Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago).
A letter signed by 34 members of IBIC’s steering committee including myself was sent to the Illinois Congressional delegation explaining IBIC’s position and asking for action from Congress. If you also acknowledge that the US immigration laws are broken and desperately need to be fixed, you are encouraged to contact your Congressional leaders and add your voice to IBIC’s in asking for a comprehensive, common sense solution. The time has come for the Congress to act on immigration reform without further delay.