A group of top manufacturers is launching a new push to convince Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would protect those individuals who were brought to the country illegally as children, provide a pathway to legal status for the millions of undocumented migrants here now and overhaul the existing system to ensure U.S. businesses can attract and retain the necessary foreign talent.
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The proposal — to be unveiled on Wednesday by the National Association of Manufacturers — comes as Congress and the White House flirt with another government shutdown over President Trump’s demands for a border wall, as well as Democrats insistence that the U.S. reduce its use of detention beds for those who travel here illegally.
“America has now endured two government shutdowns brought on by different disagreements over immigration, illustrating how divisive this debate has become,” said NAM CEO Jay Timmons. “Manufacturers are in the business of building bridges and creating solutions, so with our leaders in desperate need of a way forward on essential immigration and border security reforms, we are releasing a detailed, pragmatic approach.”
Other top industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have also been lobbying Congress to pass an immigration reform package. While several attempts have been made — most recently a series of votes in the Senate on several proposals that all failed — it remains an elusive goal for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
It’s unclear whether a divided government, with Democrats in control of the House and Republicans the Senate and White House, will be able to come to agreement on any sweeping package.
Trump has also made the debate more difficult, offering conflicting views of what he will support and doubling-down on controversial policies that are viewed as nonstarters by Democrats. His openness to a reform package, however, help spur advanced talks between both parties in 2018 that eventually broke down.
The proposal from NAM seeks to strike a middle-ground, providing a potential pathway to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers and a route to legal status for the 11 million undocumented individuals in the U.S. currently, while also increasing federal funding for border security, including walls, fencing and surveillance technology.
It also calls for reforms to the legal immigration system. Most notably, eliminating the ability of siblings of adult U.S. citizens to enter via family-based immigration, mandating a percent of overall visas be employment focused and eliminating the visa lottery system — a key goal of the Trump administration.
Additionally, the group is urging Congress to increase the number of available H-1B visas, a controversial program that allows U.S. companies to provide temporary employment to foreign workers.
“We know that certain components will not sit well with some groups. That is the nature of compromise,” Timmons said. “Our current situation demands a pragmatic, common-sense and comprehensive approach, and that can only be reached if everyone is willing to listen to all sides.”
Manufacturers hold considerable sway in the current administration and in Congress. NAM’s backing of the GOP-led tax law, for example, was viewed as critical for the effort. The group is also coordinating closely with the White House on a trade deal with China.