Conventional wisdom says immigration reform is dead for this Congress. Fresh from battle scars over Department of Homeland Security funding, some argue the GOP-controlled Congress will not touch immigration for rest of the year. What conventional wisdom misses is a growing chorus of moderate to conservative Republicans - led by our leaders in Illinois - who are advocating for sensible solutions to grow the businesses that we represent, protect both hard working immigrants and create jobs for American workers.
Last week, Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkLawmakers fighting for stronger protections for older workers GOP senator praises Supreme Court's abortion ruling Duckworth settles retaliation lawsuit MORE (R-Ill.), Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Bob Dold (R-Ill≥) and former Rep. Aaron Schock joined Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich and the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition to try to move forward the stalemated national immigration debate.
Gov. Rauner called for a comprehensive federal solution to grow and sustain our industries’ demand for high- and low-skilled workforce that is consistently unmet due to inadequate visa allocations under a system designed for a 1980s economy. Without a talented and stable workforce, fruits and vegetables rot in the fields, prices for goods and services rise, and fewer job opportunities for American workers.
The most compelling case made by Republican leaders was a conservative think-tank study that estimates it would take 20 years and up to $600 billion to deport every undocumented immigrant, while real GDP would drop by nearly $1.6 trillion and shave 5.7 percent off economic growth. This is a price tag for a shortsighted enforcement-only approach that America and especially Illinois can ill afford.
The fact remains that over the past several decades, our economic laws of labor supply and demand have been stronger than our civil immigration laws. Immigrants come here to fill jobs for both high- and low-skill work. In the process these immigrants have become an integral part of our economy. So if our goal is to grow a dynamic and thriving business environment we must pass immigration reform that reflects the realities of our current economy and protects hardworking immigrant workers. Immigration reform is economically important, morally right, politically smart and more urgent than ever.
The chorus of pro-reform Republicans will continue to grow in the coming months as the political calculus shifts toward 2016. Illinois Republican leaders like Rauner, Kirk, Dold, Kinzinger and Schock are leaders for sensible solutions. We urge Congress to follow.
Rowe is co-chair of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition and Exelon chairman emeritus. Also signing on the above opinion are coalition members:Dave Bender, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois; Omar Duque, president and CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Marc Gordon, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association; Rich Guebert Jr., president of the Illinois Farm Bureau; Mark Harris, president and CEO of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition; Fred Hoch, president and CEO of the Illinois Technology Association; Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce; Rebecca Shi, executive director of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition; Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association; Maryjane Wurth, president and CEO of the Illinois Hospital Association; and Dan Yunker, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council.