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CEOs Put Spotlight on Immigration’s Economic Promise

On the eve of today’s Senate vote on comprehensive immigration legislation, the nation’s employers have moved aggressively to change the subject from border security to jobs and economic growth.

From high-technology CEOs to small-business owners, both Wall Street and Main Street have bet big money on immigration legislation, and they may play a key role in its passage,  CQ Weekly reports.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today unveiled a national pro-immigration ad buy, and President Barack Obama invited an A-list of CEOs and business owners to the White House, including America Online co-founder Steve Case and Farooq Kathwari, CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. As the story notes:

“The nation’s employers have played a central role in writing the bill now pending in the Senate, which would move the nation toward a labor-market driven immigration system. Business leaders are likely to be the overhaul advocates best positioned to win over the House conservatives who may control the endgame. And they may have the most to lose if the fragile coalition behind an overhaul that ties new border controls to a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants falls apart.

Business leaders also have put a ton of money on the table. An army of Silicon Valley executives from the likes of Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. has joined the fray in earnest for the first time, spending millions on lobbying, advertising and grass-roots organizing.”

Not everybody buys the business case for immigration reform, and opponents of the Senate bill charge that it was written by and for special corporate interests. Labor leaders, too, object to sweet deals for high tech moguls and are pushing hard to preserve worker protections. Still, the coalition behind the bill is hanging together as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., lays the groundwork for a vote this evening and final passage by Friday.

Then it’s on to the House — where business leaders traditionally aligned with the GOP may be the only ones who can convince conservatives that they should be more worried about jobs than border security.

Read the whole story here. (Subscription required.) 

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