The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that Republicans should not bother to run a candidate for president in 2016 if Congress does not pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year.
Speaking at an event in Washington D.C. Monday focused on infrastructure investment, Chamber President Tom Donohue said: “If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016.”
He added that he said that “to get everybody’s attention.”
The Chamber of Commerce has been pushing for comprehensive immigration reform in the hope that Republicans, who generally support stances that are seen as important to the business world, will break the impasse in Congress over how to address border security while also deciding how to address the estimated 11 undocumented immigrants already in the country.
In February, the chamber sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, urging him to advance work on a measure to overhaul the immigration system.
"Failure to act is not an option," the letter said. "We cannot afford to be content and watch a dysfunctional immigration system work against our overall national interest. In short, immigration reform is an essential element of a jobs agenda and economic growth. It will add talent, innovation, investment, products, businesses, jobs, and dynamism to our economy."
Last June, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform measure that, among other things, tightened border security, expanded foreign worker visas and provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
But the effort has stalled in the House, where Republicans have a majority and several of them have vowed not to pass a bill that gives amnesty to people who have broken immigration laws.
After the bruising defeat of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, and the role that Hispanic voters – 71 percent of whom voted to re-elect President Barack Obama – played in the overall election, Republican leaders vowed to court Latinos more assertively. One of things some GOP leaders said they would try in order to attract more Latino voters was passing an immigration reform bill.
At Monday’s event, the moderator asked Donohue whether he believed that Congress would pass an immigration bill this year.
“Yes, yes,” Donohue said.
National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons agreed.
“This is a unified position of the business community,” Timmons said, according to Politico.
But some Republicans in Congress vow they will not support any measure that seeks to give a break to people who have broken immigration laws.
“The immigration bill in question would double the annual number of guest worker admissions – from roughly 600,000 a year under current law to 1.2 million a year if passed,” Stephen Miller, spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), according to Politico. “It would also triple the admission of largely lower-skilled permanent immigrants over the next decade – from 10 million to 30 million. Immigration reform should mean putting unemployed Americans back to work, not replacing them at a lower cost.”