Chamber of Commerce to GOP: Pass Immigration Reform Or Forget About The 2016 Election

Carlos Vera, Staff Writer

In a not so subtle manner, Tom Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said if Republicans in the House did not take up immigration reform soon, they could kiss their chances of taking back the White House in 2016 goodbye. “If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016” Donohue said at a panel focused on American infrastructure on Monday, “I mean, think about that. Think about who the voters are.” Some in audience gasped at his answer and understandably so. These words were coming out of the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major donor of the Republican Party. While the Chamber in the past has supported mostly conservative causes and policies, they have been quite vocal about their support for immigration reform.

According to Donohue, it is important to pass immigration reform so that the U.S. can continue to attract highly skilled immigrants while helping fill the labor shortage certain industries face. His comments on the topic of immigration came up when the moderator of the panel asked him which current legislation is a “must pass bill…that’s crucial for the future of the U.S. economy.” Donohue responded by saying it was immigration reform. “We’ll be absolutely crazy if we don’t take advantage of having passed an immigration bill out of the Senate. Going back and doing it again might be harder and do something rational in the House and put it together and let’s get the three or four things we really need there. And we’ve got a lot of heat on that and we’re going to put a lot more.” He added jokingly that if all the “bottom level of workers” left the country, who would pick up peoples’ mother-in-laws from the nursing home?

Even with his warning to the GOP, he was confident that the House would take up a couple of small immigration bills. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO, Jay Timmons, agreed with Donnelly and believes that an immigration bill would come up for a vote as the “final bill” for this legislative session.

The voters that Donohue alluded to in his remarks were most likely referring to the growing Latino voter group who will play an important role in the 2016 election. In a new report released by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials projected that there will be an estimated 28 million eligible Latino voters come 2016. Just in the 2012 vote, Latino voters made up 37 percent of the vote in New Mexico, 18 percent in Nevada, 17 percent in Florida and 14 percent in Colorado. This percentage will increase significantly if Latino voter enrollments and voter participation continues.

While there is resistance from the more right wing element of the  party, recent comments from top party leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the Republican conference chairwoman, suggests there might actually be a chance of an immigration bill coming up on the floor before the session ends this year. Just this past week, Speaker Boehner attended a Hispanic Chamber Commerce event in San Antonio and spoke to the Texas Tribune. While he would not give an exact date on when the House would act on immigration, he stated that the House would approach immigration reform by voting on small immigration bills “sequentially” over a week to a month period.

Carlos Vera is a Staff Writer at Latino Giant. Originally from Colombia, Carlos grew up in Southern California and has served in the Army Reserves since 2011. He is a junior at American University, pursuing a degree in Political Science.  He is currently studying abroad in Brussels where is he is a Legislative Intern at the European Parliament. He is passionate about the intersection between policy, advocacy and community development as it pertains to Latinos in United States.

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