U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue said Monday that Congress must get back to the issue of immigration, arguing that businesses need an influx of immigrant labor because American workers aren't available.
In the process, Mr. Donohue waded into a thorny debate about increasing legal immigration — which is part of the broader conversation, though it is usually overwhelmed by the discussion about what to do with the estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants already here.
Polls show most Americans prefer to see legal immigration kept steady or reduced, rather than increased, believing more immigration will lead to competition for jobs. But Mr. Donohue said Americans shouldn't be worried.
"Immigrants do not typically compete with Americans for jobs, and, in fact, create more jobs through entrepreneurship, economic activity, and tax revenues," he said. "Immigrants serve as a complement to U.S.-born workers and can help fill labor shortages across the skill spectrum and in key sectors."
The chamber brokered a major deal last year with labor unions that called for illegal immigrants to gain legal status and for an increase in future legal immigration for work purposes. That deal cleared the way for the Senate to pass a broad immigration overhaul.
Previous immigration bills — and particularly the last major attempt at reform in 2007 — had broken down amid the fight between unions and business lobbies.
The Congressional Budget Office, in a major analysis of the Senate's bill last year, concluded that the additional workers would be good for the U.S. economy in general, boosting growth significantly.
As for individual workers, those on both the low and high ends of the wage scale would likely suffer from increased competition from immigrants — though the effect would be less than half of a percentage point, the CBO said.
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