Human Capital & Careers

Chamber of Commerce Seeks Open Borders

Trade group's president argues that a House bill would ''impose sweeping new mandates on employers,'' even as businesses are contending with near-h...
Stephen TaubJanuary 5, 2006

Here is yet another reminder that business creates strange bedfellows…and counterintuitive adversaries.

You’d think that a pro-business group like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would support Republican initiatives. Not always: The powerful trade group is fighting legislation aimed at restricted immigration, and promoted by conservative House Republicans, on the grounds that it would create more of a burden for business.

“We have no problem with increased border enforcement, or with reasonable requirements that employers verify the work status of who they hire,” said Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce, according to the Financial Times. “But we strongly oppose the House bill…because it is simply unworkable, unreasonable, and unfair.”

Donohue reportedly added that the bill would “impose sweeping new mandates on employers” and that it contains provisions that could “potentially turn business people into criminals and turn workers into felons simply for trying to support their families.”

There’s also the argument that companies like an open-door immigration policy because it increases the number of potential employees, enabling employers to offer less money than they would otherwise need to. It’s Supply/Demand 101.

At a news conference outlining business prospects in 2006, however, Donohue reportedly disputed this notion, stating that “what American companies want is labor, and we are going to be significantly without it.” The chamber argues that businesses are already contending with near-historic lows in unemployment and the impending retirement of huge numbers of baby boomers.

One of the chamber’s top legislative policies, Donohue continued, is to pass a new immigration law that includes a guest-worker program, according to the Associated Press. The House legislation does not address this issue.

A final note on those borders: In an earlier report on its agenda for 2005-2006, the chamber revealed a not unsurprising survey result. More than half of respondents gave high priority to U.S. trade laws that would more effectively restrict imports that unfairly compete with domestic producers. Presumably, they were referring to goods rather than people.