There are a clutch of other conversations going on

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There are a clutch of other conversations going on, with the Business Roundtable and the SEIU union also involved, as well as evangelical Christian and Jewish leaders and, of course, Latino and immigrant groups. The last big push for immigration reform came in 2006, during the final years of the Bush administration, and was a bipartisan effort led by John McCain, the Republican, and the late Ted Kennedy, a Democrat. But supporters of immigration reform suffered internal divisions - notably within the labour movement over an expanded guest worker programme, weakening the effort to convince lawmakers to pass the bill. Conservatives attacked the bill for providing a pathway to citizenship for people in the US illegally. The effort failed in 2007 because it could not win the votes it needed in the Senate. Six years on, are the prospects any better? Analysts and interest groups say yes. Labour unions have overcome their disagreements, having been through an 18-month consultation that resulted in a shared immigration policy framework. "There was a unanimous consensus that we should not and could not walk into any legislative battle divided because if the legislators saw the labour movement was divided they would not listen to anyone," says Ana Avendano, director of immigration action at the AFL-CIO. Immigrant advocacy groups are now more established while networks of day labourers and domestic workers have formed. Talks among this unlikely coalition are likely to continue for six or so more weeks, during which time it will become clear whether they can forge an agreement. Economic arguments will be at the forefront of the debate. Economists generally agree that immigration is a net positive to the US, a factor that cannot be ignored as baby boomers retire and pressure builds on government healthcare and pension systems. The legislative programme ushered through by Ronald Reagan in 1986 showed that comprehensive immigration reform would raise wages, increase consumption, create jobs and generate additional tax revenue, says Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, a University of California professor. Even though those reforms were implemented during a recession and high unemployment, they still helped raise wages and spurred increases in educational, home, and small-business investments by newly legalised immigrants, Prof Hinojosa-Ojeda wrote in a study for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank generally supportive of Republican ideas. Immigration reform would add at least $1.5tn to the gross domestic product over a decade, he estimated. Businesses say they need more certainty. "My members wouldn't be as interested in this issue as they are if it didn't hurt them," said Randel Johnson, the Chamber of Commerce's vice-president of labour, immigration and employee benefits. Mr Johnson cites agriculture as a sector where business is crying out for a "stabilised, legalised" workforce.
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  • Fall '14
  • Immigration to the United States

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