Yesterday, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue delivered a speech on the state of American business. One of the subjects that Donahue touched upon was the issue of immigration. In his speech Donohue lamented that Americans think that immigration “threaten[s] our national sovereignty.” During the question and answer session, Donahue laid out exactly where the Chamber stands on immigration reform:
We think the most important parts of a comprehensive immigration reform would be a way for the 12 million people who are here to legitimacy so they can easily participate in society, pay their taxes, drive cars, that sort of thing.
Secondly, we need a guest worker program so that people can easily come back and forth for work. And some of that would probably be seasonally for crops and for recreation, organizations, and so on.
And third, we definitely need a way to deal with the high-end talented folks that are needed in this economy. It’s amazing that we take twelve years to train a Ph.D. in chemical engineering — we used to always keep them — now it’s hard for them to stay.
Throughout 2010, the Chamber of Commerce didn’t have much to contribute to the immigration debate. Most notably, the powerful business group was absent from the coalition of Latino, labor, faith, and advocacy groups that fought an uphill battle last year under the umbrella of the Reform Immigration for America campaign to get comprehensive immigration reform on the table in 2010.
However, the Chamber of Commerce did have a lot of money to contribute to Republican candidates despite the fact that the GOP collectively pulled every stunt to block immigration reform. Roll Call reported that the Chamber spent $32 million on the 2010 midterm elections, 93 percent of it on GOP candidates. In Senate races, the Chamber allegedly spent millions of dollars on candidates who explicitly expressed their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform including Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Roy Blunt, and Mark Kirk.
Similarly, in the House, the Chamber dumped millions of dollars into trying to oust pro-immigration reform lawmakers like current and former Reps. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alan Grayson (D-FL), and Tom Perriello (D-VA). The fact that most of the candidates the Chamber supported won means the chances of a bill similar to the one outlined by Donohue getting through Congress over the next two years are slim to none.
Though Donohue indicated today on MSNBC that the Chamber will “support” Obama on immigration, where was that “support” in 2010 when the chance for getting a humane, pro-business immigration bill through Congress was high? It’s no secret that the Chamber dedicated millions to lobbying against the healthcare bill, the Disclose Act, the Employee Free Choice Act and financial reform. Meanwhile, it rejected the moderate immigration framework presented by Democrats even though Democratic leadership specifically introduced a framework rather than a bill so that Republicans and other conservative groups would provide productive feedback that would ultimately lead to bipartisan legislation.
Donohue insisted that “the Chamber will continue to work with others on a comprehensive immigration reform program.” Yet, ultimately, the Chamber needs to put its money where its mouth is if it truly wants to see results.