By Peter Jones
The South Metro Denver Chamber is among the business groups that joined a call last week for Colorado’s congressional delegation – particularly Republicans – to support comprehensive immigration legislation.
Business leaders representing such organizations as Colorado Concern, the Colorado Competitive Council, Colorado Forum and the Colorado Bioscience Association convened on Sept. 23 at Metro State University in Denver to release a letter that calls on U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner to support what the group calls “common-sense immigration reform.”
The missive signed by leaders in the technology, agriculture, tourism and other industry sectors said the reform bill should include an improved visa system, effective enforcement and a path to citizenship.
John Brackney, president of the nonpartisan South Metro Chamber, says most of the business community supports immigration reform from the standpoint of two basic worker tiers – traditional laborers and highly educated specialists.
“One is the need for employees who are really willing to work hard. The second major pairing is we need really smart people,” he said. “We have some of the best universities in the world. They come here. We educate them, and then because of our restrictive immigration laws we send the best and the brightest back to compete against America. There’s consensus that we need immigration reform to be competitive in this global economy.”
Brackney says that is why the chamber’s board of directors has voted to support the comprehensive bipartisan bill drafted this year by the Senate’s “Gang of 8,” a group that includes Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
“If the House takes it up in bites and is able to get the same things done, we applaud that too,” Brackney added. “We just know there must be some path forward.”
Comprehensive immigration reform has gotten increasing support from Republicans, including from Coffman, the Aurora Republican whose reconfigured 6th Congressional District now boasts a 20 percent Hispanic population. The Senate bill has also marked a rare agreement between labor unions and business.
“We think there’s a path through for most of the middle ground of America,” Brackney said. “If the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can get together on this issue, there are ways for political parties to get together.”
Brackney, a former Republican Arapahoe County commissioner, believes his party will pay a political price if it fails to come on board.
“The changing demographic is not a theory. It’s a fact,” the chamber CEO said. “You just look at the changing face of America and it is a really poor business decision to alienate an entire demographic.”
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