Business tries to twist Boehner's arm

The nation’s largest business lobby is joining with heavyweight companies like Apple, Caterpillar, Facebook, Google and GE to pressure Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on immigration reform.

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On Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 600 companies and trade groups sent a letter to Boehner pushing him to move forward with immigration reform legislation this year.

The groups said they were “encouraged” by the immigration principles released by the House Republican Conference last month and said they should be “guideposts” for a legislative drive.

“We support Congress and the administration moving forward on immigration reform using these Standards as the guideposts for action this year,” said the letter, which was also signed by the International Franchise Association, the National Retail Federation and the U.S. Travel Association, among others.

“Failure to act is not an option. We cannot afford to be content and watch a dysfunctional immigration system work against our overall national interest,” the letter said. “We urge legislative action to seize this opportunity to fix our dysfunctional immigration system by enacting meaningful immigration reforms this year.”

The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last summer. Business groups lobbied for the Senate legislation but have failed to win over House Republicans skeptical of that bill’s pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

At their retreat last month, House Republicans issued their principles for immigration reform, raising hopes that they would move forward this year.

But the framework fell flat with some members in the House GOP caucus. In addition, Boehner himself seemed to close the door on a bill this year.

“There’s widespread doubt that this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes,” Boehner said at a Feb. 6 press conference.

But Boehner’s statement hasn’t stopped the lobbying on the issue.

Along with the businesses' letter on Tuesday, Catholic bishops and evangelical leaders plan to release an open letter to Congress on Wednesday in support of immigration reform.

On Monday, the Service Employees International Union, along with faith and immigrant groups launched a “Fast for Families Across America” nationwide bus tour. The tour is expected to stop in more than 100 congressional districts to push for immigration reform.

The White House has also continued to press the issue. Last month, President Obama told Senate Democrats he expects Boehner to pass immigration reform this year.

The Speaker and Obama met Tuesday at the White House and discussed a wide range of issues, including immigration, according to a Boehner aide.

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