Business Groups Push Immigration Bills in Face of GOP Dissent

  • House set to pass bills to help Dreamers, farm workers
  • Measures face challenge of garnering 60 votes in Senate

Business and immigration groups are rallying behind two immigration measures pushed by Democrats on Capitol Hill despite Republican opposition stoked by the surge of migrants arriving at the southwest border.

The House is set to pass a measure (H.R. 6) that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children and another bill (H.R. 1603) that would allow about 1 million farm workers to receive new temporary protections or permanent legal status.

The Chamber and a broad coalition of farmer, immigration, law enforcement, religious, and conservative groups have been reaching out to members of Congress to urge support for the legislation. They said that effort is likely to escalate when it moves to the Senate, where proponents face an uphill battle mustering the 60 votes needed for passage.

Photographer: Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Bloomberg
Migrants wait in line to enter a shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco state, Mexico, on March 9. The increased number of migrants coming across the U.S. border with Mexico has stiffened GOP opposition to immigrations bills supported by Democrats as well as business and farm groups.

“If we can begin to address some of these problems and demonstrate that there’s bipartisan support, victory can beget other victories,” said Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The business lobby held a press call Thursday with allies at the United Fresh Produce Association and the National Immigration Forum, in which they expressed optimism for how the measures could move forward.

“Perhaps for the first time, we’re going to see a lot of senators trying to figure out how to get to ‘yes,’ instead of resting back and saying, ‘OK, I’m sorry I just can’t do it,’” Ali Noorani, the president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, said on the Chamber press call.

“The fact that that is happening is really a testament to the show of force from allies across the range of constituencies that care about this issue and the community,” he added.

The United Fresh Produce Association sent a letter Wednesday with signatures from 350 member companies urging support for the bill in the House. It was paired with another letter from the agriculture sector at large that had more than 260 signatures.

“The fresh produce industry relies greatly on foreign labor to harvest the fruits vegetables that not only America but the world,” Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at the United Fresh Produce Association, said on the call.

Republican Outreach

The National Immigration Forum has been working to put together a variety of voices, informally dubbed “Bibles Badges and Business,” to engage moderates and conservatives on the topic of immigration, Noorani said in a telephone interview.

That effort includes the Chamber, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, Americans for Prosperity, the Niskanen Center, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, among others.

A February digital fly-in from the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of organizations, resulted in 300 pastors from 40 states meeting with 63 offices on Capitol Hill about the immigration measures, Noorani said.

He said that feedback from senators during his organization’s outreach has been positive. He said some of the Republicans who’ve been most open to collaborating include Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins(Maine), and Mike Rounds (S.D.).

However, congressional Republicans are blaming the Biden administration and Democratic policies for encouraging the increase of migrants coming to the southern border. Sen. Lindsey Graham(R-S.C.), who has in the past supported legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers,” said Wednesday there would be no bipartisan solution to immigration until the border situation is addressed.

Advocates said there’s likely to be an amendments process, which they hope will encourage opponents of the bills to come to the table to work on a solution.

Read More: Democrats Scale Back on Immigration as GOP Digs In Heels

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan R. Wilson in Washington at mwilson@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com; Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com

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