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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

CA Chamber of Commerce pressures Congressional delegation over immigration reform

GOP Congressman Darrell Issa (center) publicly supports citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.
GOP Congressman Darrell Issa (center) publicly supports citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. Kitty Felde/KPCC

The House of Representatives returns to Washington late Tuesday following the July 4th recess. But the immigration debate followed members back to their home districts in California. The state Chamber of Commerce weighed in with a message to lawmakers from the Golden State: don't let others drive the immigration debate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been an active participant in the immigration debate, forging a compromise with unions that set the table for the comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate. Now, California Chamber president Allan Zaremberg has a personal message for House members, delivered in a short video (see below).

Zaremberg says California’s representatives need to dominate the immigration debate in Washington. "They can’t let somebody else, who doesn’t have a stake in this, determine the outcome,” he says. Zaremberg makes his case in dollars and cents, saying, "What happens in California affects the rest of the country. Our economy is going to help drive the economic recovery in the rest of the United States.”

California's 15 Congressional Republicans are  considered key to passing any immigration measure. Their views on immigration reform are diverse. 

Several California GOP members have made it clear they will vote "no" on any proposal that includes a path to citizenship. Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach says legalization of any kind will just attract more illegal immigrants. Ed  Royce of Fullerton says Congress has consistently defeated "amnesty" measures. San Diego's Duncan Hunter says "amnesty is not an option." Tom McClintock of Granite Bay says, "If we allow illegal immigration, then legal immigration becomes pointless."

Other Republicans from California are open to a path to citizenship. Vista's Darrell Issa says after weeding out those who are "undesirable" like criminals — and those who don't have the skills to be "well-employed here" — citizenship for some should be on the table. Others who say they'd support citizenship with conditions include Irvine's John Campbell, Turlock's Jeff  Denham, and Devin Nunes of Tulare. David Valadao of Hanford wants to give hard-working undocumented workers the same opportunities afforded his parents, who are Portuguese immigrants. 

Both Riverside's Ken Calvert and Simi Valley's Buck McKeon say they'll support some kind of legal status, though not citizenship. 

And there are California Republican members who have been quiet on the topic. Redding's Doug LaMalfa has been less precise about what he'd support. Paul Cook of Big Bear says he opposes illegal immigration and supports border security, saying nothing about a path to citizenship. House Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield — the number three House Republican — has said nothing about what he'd support.

And San Bernardino's Gary Miller, facing what may be the toughest re-election battle in Congress in a district that is nearly half-Latino, says he's still in the "information gathering" stage on the topic. (BuzzFeed reports that old videos of Miller taking a hard line on immigration have been purged from his You Tube channel.) Miller's office issued a statement Monday saying the Congressman's position "will continue to evolve as we continue to listen and gather input from residents, business leaders, and law enforcement officials to ensure that the needs of the Inland Empire are met."

It's this latter group of Congress members that the California Chamber of Commerce is trying to persuade. It's unclear whether a video on a website is enough to nail down votes.

KPCC polled the entire California delegation on immigration. Their answers are here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the city Gary Miller represents.

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