Thursday, May 7, 2009

Immigration Reform Prospects -- A Business View

Tamar Jacoby had been every active in the last immigration reform effort, representing mostly a business constutuency. Now as president of ImmigrationWorks USA, which favors a way to legalization but also a more open policy toward visas for temporary workers, reflects on the current atmosphere for comprehensive reform in a Los Angeles Times op ed piece. She argues that. despite the recession, competition for jobs doesn't seem to be a big issue against. The obvious fact is that most undocumented workers hold jobs unattractive to most American workers, and many of these are disappearing anyway. Her other evidence is that employment has not been this year a big issue in state legislatures or with unions. She feels the political climate has changed with the election of Obama, especially since Hispanic electoral participation had grown and is likely to grow even more. All that is favorable for a new try at comprehensive reform. But her fear seems to be that the coalition of 2006-7 may pull apart. Latino leaders got out the vote because immigration for their constituencies -- even Puerto Rican and Cuban that had few immigration issues -- was an "image issue". Now the newly generated political participation may turn on "wedge issues" -- discrimination, jobs, education, health -- that could split the vote and pull them away from other coalition members. Also while unions have united in support of comprehensive reform, they are asking that any temporary worker program in a comprehensive reform be more tightly written and more fairly administered. That runs square against the hopes of friendly employers who want their "reliable" workers to come cheap. Still Jacoby seems optimistic that the reform coalition will hold.

The budget request of President Barack Obama sent Congress is asking $27 billion for border security. This reflects recently announced poliy changes and his view that a tighter border has to be part of immigration reform if voters are to buy it. (See Arizona Republic article. See Also Associated Press analysis piece.)

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