Immigrants are good for American business. That was the message at the 2019 State of American Business address this morning in Washington, D.C., where U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue kicked off his list of priorities for the coming year. “We must have a steady supply of talented and hard-working people to do the work of a modern economy so our nation can compete and lead,” he said.
Donohue has been steadfast in opposing President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. “We have people without jobs who lack the skills or education to fill open positions. And we have jobs without people—employers tell us positions are sitting vacant because they can’t find the workers they need, when and where they need them,” he added.
He also called for protection for Dreamers and long-term Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries while supporting border protection. Dreamers are individuals who were brought to the United States without documentation as children and qualify for protection through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Trump attempted to end that program, but his efforts have been stymied by a court injunction, which was upheld in a recent federal appeals court ruling.
Donohue is pressuring both the president and Congress to come up with sensible immigration reform that creates a legal pathway for undocumented immigrants.
The issue of immigration is tied to another ambition for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: passing a large-scale infrastructure bill. It’s no secret that the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a D+ for the state of its drinking water, bridges, railways, and power lines, among other physical social structures.
“Today, if we were to go out and start an infrastructure project, we don’t have the people to do the work!” said Donohue. The organization is currently taking suggestions for how to fund an overhaul of the nation’s bridges, ports, and roadways. The chamber will consolidate submissions and discuss them at its Infrastructure Summit on February 5. The winning idea will net its creator $25,000.
“Our nation must continue to attract and welcome industrious and innovative people from all over the world, and finally fix our broken immigration system,” he said.