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Midwestern Business Leaders, in Support of Immigration Reform -- Now!

In spite of the results in a 2013 survey that show that 77% of Midwestern business leaders consider it important for government to pass new immigration legislation this year, Congress continues to drag its feet.

According to this survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, “Seventy-five percent of Republican, 63 percent of Democrat and 55 percent of Independent Midwest business leaders surveyed favor the Senate bill on comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship combined with stricter border control”.

This new legislation is not about leaving our borders unprotected. This is about facing reality, understanding and accepting the enormous value of immigrant contributions to the political, economic, and social environment of the United States.

"Policymakers agree that our current system is not meeting the needs of the 21st century global economy”, says the report by the Chicago Council.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder has continued to do his fair share in support of immigration.

In January 2014, through Executive Order 2014-2, he opened the Michigan Office for New Americans, in an effort to speed up the economic recovery of Michigan by attracting and retaining high-skilled immigrants. This office intends “to serve as the coordinator for all executive branch agencies that are responsible for programs related to services for immigrants, and all programs concerning immigrant entrepreneurship, licensing, work force training, education, housing, health care, and quality of life”. The Office for New Americans will become an efficient tool in Michigan as it will be “Analyzing policies and proposals related to immigrants, and making recommendations to the governor regarding their effectiveness or on the elimination of duplication in existing programs in these areas”.

According to the Gov. Snyder’s Reinventing Michigan website “…immigrants are net job creators… and start businesses at twice the rate of native-born Americans”. In fact, in the last 10 years, immigrants in the state opened almost one third of Michigan’s high-tech businesses, "...at a rate six times the rest of the population”.For the last 10 years, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has been tirelessly working in favor of immigration reform.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is the creator of the Midwest immigration Task Force Report, and through the support of its Group of 500, it has created an extensive network of Midwestern leaders committed to raising awareness regarding the important contributions immigrants make to the US economy.

This growing network of individuals, companies, organizations, and civic leaders broadly endorses the direction of the bipartisan Midwest immigration task force, and represents a key component of the Task Force in their efforts to present the Midwestern perspective for immigration reform to policymakers in the nation’s capital.

The Group of 500 is basically the voice of the Midwest in support of immigration.

The Group recently organized the conference “Immigration Reform: Bridging the Divide”, co-sponsored by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Senator Mark Kirk, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, and Congressman Adam Kinzinger served as panelists and spoke about the importance of immigration reform in the United States.

The conference moderator, John Rowe, described how the panelists “…had done everything they can to break the gridlock on this issue” [immigration reform]. Still, no solution is in sight.

Other events organized by the Chicago Council also include the Second Annual Convening of the Global Great Lakes Network to take place in Pittsburgh, PA on June 12th and 13, 2014, and the “Cambio de Colores Conference on Latinos in the Heartland: Growing Together in New Destination Areas” at the University of Missouri-Columbia, also in June.

Religious leaders are becoming involved in the struggle to have immigration reform pass this year, and have organized a large event intending to raise awareness on the importance of the immigrant contributions to the US economy. The July 2014 National Migration Conference, hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/ MRS), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), will take place in Washington, DC, July 7-10, 2014, at the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel.

“The National Migration Conference intends to share and apply Catholic Social Teaching on migration, and to share information on domestic and international issues affecting the life and dignity of immigrants, migrants, refugees, trafficking victims and other vulnerable people on the move, among other issues. They also mean to prepare and organize participants to carry the message of these migration issues both to Congress in Washington, DC, and to constituencies and political leaders in their own communities”, states the conference website.

The results of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey, made public in February 2014, include the fact that: “Majorities of Midwestern business leaders also say that immigration at current levels is good for their own companies… “. And with our present restrictive, and antagonistic immigration laws, there is a good chance that we will lose our competitive advantage over other nations to retain or attract the necessary number of professional, high-skilled immigrants to maintain a growing economy in the years to come.

This alone should be reason enough for policymakers in Washington to stop dragging their feet, and seriously focus on reaching an agreement to pass immigration reform -- not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, not next year, but now.