The year began with excellent news regarding immigration. The 113th Congress was sworn into office on January 3rd, 2013, and immigration reform is expected to be one of its key legislative priorities.
In fact, President Obama recently reaffirmed his commitment to make immigration reform a top priority, and even pledged to introduce legislation in the first year of his second term in office to reform the system in what he defined as “a comprehensive way.”
A bipartisan group of senators including Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Representative and Senator-Elect Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), John McCain (R-Arizona) , Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are presently working on proposals for this reform.
The group is known as The Gang of Eight.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a leading independent, nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning, is hosting a summit to bring to the table the Midwest perspective on immigration in Washington at the National Press Club on Thursday, February 28, 2013.
The summit will include the release of a report prepared by an independent 53 member bipartisan group, who began working on their proposal since December 2011. The title of this report is Task Force on Immigration and U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A View from the Midwest, and it discusses the importance of educating Midwestern leadership regarding the vital role of immigrants in the region, and of enhancing public understanding of the role of immigrants on the economic future of the Midwest.
Richard M. Daley, former Mayor of Chicago; Joe Loughrey, Former President and COO of Cummins, Inc.; Mike Rounds, Former Governor of South Dakota, John W. Rowe, Chairman Emeritus of Exelon Corporation; Chet Culver, Former Governor of Iowa; Doris Meissner, Senior Fello of the Migration Policy Institute and former Commission for the US Immigration and Naturalization Services are among the 53 business, political, and civic leaders who will present the Midwest report which includes data on demographics and labor force, spotlight stories, and legislative histories that illustrate why immigration is important to the region.
The Immigration Task Force has launched a website that publicizes its work, focuses on the importance of immigration in the Midwest, and invites those who support its policy directions to sign on to the Immigration Task Force’s Group of 500 (also known as the G500), a large group of corporate and political leaders that supports the work of the Gang of Eight, and looks to create a strong network committed to make immigration reform a reality.
Some of the topics that the Midwest representatives have discussed and are expected to address in their report include border security, a path to citizenship for the 1.3 million undocumented immigrants that today reside in the Midwest, the formation of a seasonal workforce – vital to farmers, wineries, nurseries, and resorts in the Midwest—the retention of STEM international students, and the importance of increasing the number of work visas for high-skilled immigrants that can fill the gap in areas where “no willing and able U.S. workers are available”.
According to Vivek Wadhwa, a researcher at Duke University “25% of all engineering firms formed [in the US] between 1995 and 2005 were founded by immigrants”.
Backers and funders of the Immigration Task Force include immigration attorneys, faculty members, restaurant owners, PR agencies, publishers and journalists, consultants, and civic and cultural associations representing every ethnicity in the Midwest of the United States.