A new coalition of business groups and union leaders have banned together to work toward a comprehensive immigration bill this year. The Alliance for Immigration Reform 2007 announced its formation this week, “placing the force of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Service Employees International Union and the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights group behind a unified lobbying effort to get a law passed before the politics of the 2008 presidential campaign make a compromise on the contentious issue unworkable.”
Pressure has been increasing in the job market as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stepped up its workplace raids last year:
Business groups paint a dire picture of a U.S. economy without the country’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. The National Restaurant Association says jobs in food service are growing one and a half times as fast as the U.S. labor force. And the construction industry needs 250,000 new workers per year to replace its aging workforce, according to Associated Builders and Contractors.
Proponents of a plan to legalize undocumented workers say this year offers an important window. President Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress have called immigration reform a priority, and the coalition considers a Senate bill last year that provided a path to citizenship for undocumented workers a blueprint for the policy. That legislation stalled in November when the House and Senate could not hash out a compromise.
Although in the past Labor and Business interests have opposed one another on the immigration debate, both see a benefit of working together for change because the current system is causing more problems than solutions, and while they agree that reform is needed, there are disagreements in what the details of a comprehensive reform package should look like.