US Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue made the announcement this week during the organization’s annual State of American Business address.
After he spoke about the need to also address rising poverty and unemployment, he lay out the chamber’s five key priorities for this year: Producing more domestic energy, expanding US trade, modernizing the financial regulatory system, overhauling the tax code, and, reforming this country’s immigration system.
“Given our changing demographics, we need more workers to sustain our economy, support our retired population, and help us stay competitive," said Donohue, who acknowledged that recent conversations with lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill boost his optimism for a truly bipartisan solution. "Even with high unemployment, we have millions and millions of job openings that go unfilled—either the workers come here to fill those jobs, or the companies will take those jobs and others that go with them, elsewhere.”
The Chamber is discussing the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform with religious groups, law enforcement and the nation’s largest labor organization, the AFL-CIO.
Before his job with the US Chamber of Commerce, Donohue was chief executive of the American Trucking Associations, a national organization of the trucking industry. Political observers have long associated the Chamber’s agenda with the Republican Party, even as the business lobby has advocated for immigration reform behind the scenes.
“Before, everybody talked about it, everybody understood the issues, but there wasn’t an energy behind it and I think there is a bipartisan group of people," he said. "I feel positive about it and look forward to immigration reform this year.”
Donohue hasn’t offered much detail about the Chamber’s plan for immigration reform—but he did emphasize the need for strict border enforcement, paired with guest worker programs and more green cards for international students.