When we look at the complex and contentious issue of immigration reform, some wonder how big of an issue it is to small businesses. The answer is that it’s just as big of an issue to America’s small business community as it is to corporate America.
The consequences of inaction and procrastinating the inevitable impact us all just the same. I can argue that small businesses are more at risk because many don’t have the in-house, HR compliance expertise that large employers have. I speak with many small business owners and operators from different industries regularly and when we discuss immigration reform, they all express their concerns and frustration with Washington’s inability to act. There is collective agreement that our immigration system is in need of an overhaul, and we see widespread support from business, faith-based and community groups alike urging Congress to take action.
The political will to tackle immigration reform at the federal level seems to take as long as 10 years to develop. The tragic events of Sept. 11 served as the ultimate reality check that our system of immigration and border security was more inadequate than we wished to believe. Congress is once again confronted with this big, complex and unpopular issue that has no political safe zone that members of Congress can retreat to.
Although the Gang of Eight’s plan that the U.S. Senate passed is far from perfect, we have to applaud Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and the U.S. Senate for having the courage to take on this issue. As the immigration reform battle has shifted to the U.S. House, political will seems to be lacking as they have done nothing to take on this issue since the U.S. Senate passed their bill on June 27.
I’m sure you have heard the phrase “issues live or die in August” when referring to issues that Congress is debating. Congress takes the month of August off for their summer recess when members return to their home state and work to reconnect with their constituents. What lawmakers hear in August will influence their priorities and determine what they will take on when they return to Washington following the summer break. The issue of immigration reform is at a very high risk of dying in August as Congress intends to take on tax and entitlement reform after the summer break. Regardless of where we all stand on the bill the Senate passed, it would be unfortunate to witness the U.S House do nothing and Congress leave us to continue to deal with an immigration system that is inadequate at best.
The Arizona Small Business Association has not taken a position on the Gang of Eight’s plan, but we have a position on immigration that supports comprehensive reform at the federal level, includes a reliable verification system for domestic workers, creates a process to admit foreign workers and strengthens our boarders. Whether the U.S. House takes on the Gang of Eight’s plan or slices it into a dozen separate bills, we must push our members of the House to take on immigration reform and not allow this issue to die in August.
During the summer recess, Aug. 5 through Sept. 6, I encourage you to contact your House representative and urge him or her to take on and debate immigration reform. They need to hear from us as individuals and businesses to bridge the gap between the isolation of D.C. and the realities that exist in our state and local communities.
Our inaction in August will lead to their procrastination in September and the following months, and we will witness a slow and unfortunate end to the issue of immigration reform as members of Congress begin to ramp up for next year’s mid-term election.
— Jerry Bustamante, senior vice president, public policy for the Arizona Small Business Association.