Some conservative lawmakers have changed their rhetoric on immigration recently, citing economic benefits, and the Partnership for a New American Economy says it's behind the shift.
The coalition of 500 business leaders and mayors, launched by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (himself a former CEO) and News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch in 2010, has spent the last two years deploying its members to write pro-immigration opinion pieces, make media appearances and—perhaps most importantly—hold private meetings with lawmakers in their areas.
The coalition's chairman (and Bloomberg's chief policy officer) John Feinblatt tells Whispers that many of the Republican lawmakers who voted for the STEM Jobs Act, a pro-immigration bill, did so after they "heard from businesses that said: 'This is important to our bottom line.'"
Working with Bloomberg's group, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce met with Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican who won his seat in part by criticizing then-congressman Chris Cannon's pro-immigration platform. In 2010, the chamber developed "The Utah Compact," a declaration calling for immigration reform in the state.
Just months later, Chaffetz introduced a pro-immigration bill to lift caps on visas for highly educated and highly skilled workers.
The congressman's office declined to comment on how much the conversations with the chamber influenced the move. But chamber executive vice president Jason Mathis tells Whispers that in part as a result of those meetings, it is "nice to finally be able to say something positive about our elected leaders actually starting to do something on immigration, instead of our ongoing complaints about their inactivity."
And lawmakers in Washington have increasingly adopted the rhetoric of the Partnership for a New American Economy. In June, Republican Sen. Jerry Moran from Kansas said that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, citing one of the coalition's talking points verbatim. In August, while remarking on the STEM Jobs Act, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor repeated the same statistic. "So we must continue to take advantage of our status as a destination for the world's best and brightest," he said.
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