Sen. Chuck Schumer is attempting to revive moribund efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration bill, telling POLITICO Monday that he will hold a hearing next week focused on the economic argument for an immigration overhaul.
It’s a subtle shift in emphasis for immigration reform advocates, who met recently with Schumer (D-N.Y.) to plot a strategy.
“We decided we ought to start highlighting the fact that immigration creates jobs rather than takes them away,” Schumer, the No. 3 Senate leader, said in an interview. “Everyone agreed that is how we are going to start talking about immigration, as a job creator.”
The change in emphasis capitalizes on an all-consuming focus in Washington on the economy. President Barack Obama spent several weeks in the spring pushing for immigration reform, including a speech that highlighted the economic benefits, but the issue has been overshadowed by budget negotiations and stalled by a Republican-controlled House.
The dismal job reports have also soured efforts to pass a bill that would allow the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to earn citizenship. The Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration rules, released a report last month pointing to the rising unemployment rate as an argument for a further crackdown on illegal immigration.
But Schumer, chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, said the July 26 hearing will argue the economic upside to immigration. Schumer is calling in business leaders to talk about the need for more highly skilled workers and mayors whose local economies have benefited from an influx of lower-skilled immigrants.
The witnesses includes NASDAQ chief Robert Greifield, Cornell University President David Skorton, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, Amgen medical director Puneet Arora, and the mayors of Utica, N.Y., Lewiston, Maine, and Uvalda, Ga.
“Our immigration talks are moving along, and surprisingly well and regularly,” said Schumer, the Senate Democratic point person on the issue. “Immigration is a rough road and I’m making no predictions, but (the talks) are clearly not dead.”