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Business bosses pressure House to pass immigration bill

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The American business community weighed in Tuesday on immigration, firing off a letter to House leaders urging them to find the political will to pass an immigration bill this year.

Sensing the chances for a deal slipping away, leaders from 428 businesses and umbrella organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce signed the letter pleading for House members not to stand in the way.

"We already have been engaged with many members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — on numerous components of a modern immigration system, and we urge that you not let this momentum slip and progress vanish," the businesses wrote in their letter, addressed to House Speaker John A. Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Business leaders were silent on what should be part of legislation, and didn't take a stand on the key thorny issue of whether a deal should include legalizing illegal immigrants. Instead, they pleaded for "meaningful" and "pro-growth" reforms.

"Thought leaders from across the ideological spectrum agree that enacting immigration reform now will accelerate U.S. economic growth at a critical time when it has struggled to recover, and will help to enable sustained growth for decades to come," they said.

The Senate has already passed an immigration bill that the Congressional Budget Office said would boost economic growth and produce new tax revenues for the federal government over the next few decades, though it would also hurt wages for some American workers.

Senators voted 68-32 for that bill, which legalizes illegal immigrants, spends tens of billions of dollars on border security and rewrites the legal immigration system.

House Republicans are debating how to proceed on the issue, but are inclined to divide it up into separate bills that boost security and create new guest-worker programs. Still to be decided is what sort of legalization bill the House will consider.

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