More than a dozen GOP donors are trying a new tack in urging Republican congressional leaders to get serious about granting so-called Dreamers legal status: it’ll help ease inflation and the U.S. labor shortage.
In a letter being sent Wednesday to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, 14 donors who call themselves “life-long Republicans” said that reaching a deal on immigration that provides permanent legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children “makes economic sense.”
“Improving border security and providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers is not only morally right; it is also absolutely crucial to addressing labor shortages, reducing food prices and creating jobs for all American families,” the donors wrote in the letter, organized by the American Business Immigration Coalition and shared first with POLITICO.
Congress remains unlikely and unable to reach any kind of immigration deal that would garner enough Republican support to pass the Senate. Last year, the Senate parliamentarian rejected multiple attempts from Democrats to include immigration reform in their party-line social spending bill. Republican leaders have expressed little interest in Democrats’ attempts at immigration reform.
The letter will be sent on the 10th anniversary of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has long been stuck in legal limbo. The future of DACA remains uncertain as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments next month on the program’s legality.
Last year, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from approving new applications for DACA, which since its inception has granted work permits and protection from deportation to more than 800,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
In the letter, the donors outlined the economic contributions of Dreamers and said ending DACA would cause “untold devastation” for every industry that has relied on their work.
“Taking hundreds of thousands out of the labor force will further fuel inflation, exacerbate supply chain challenges and tip the economy into recession,” they wrote. It also would curb the nation’s “global contest to attract and retain talent.”
“Our policies must allow us to compete for the workers we need to fuel our economy and retain the young talent that already exists here but lacks the security of permanent legal status,” the group wrote.
In April, a bipartisan group of senators — Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) — relaunched discussions on immigration reform. However, they have not reached any breakthrough in those talks. That echoes previous efforts — last year, a larger bipartisan group of senators began talks in March that ultimately went nowhere.
With less than five months until the midterm elections, there is no momentum for a bipartisan deal to be reached — a point some of the donors who signed onto the letter acknowledge as well.
“Until the election is over, they’re going to be a very low-risk group and so we’ll just keep hammering away at them,” one of the signatories, John Rowe, Exelon chair emeritus and a longtime GOP proponent of immigration reform, told POLITICO. “I don’t think the real issue is persuading McConnell and Cornyn … I think the real issue is in showing them it’s safe to have a little courage.”
With Republicans expected to take the House next year, the politics of granting Dreamers a path to legal status could get harder come 2023, not easier.
Craig Duchossois, executive chair of the private investment firm Duchossois Group and another GOP donor who signed the letter, said that “with the division within the country, the odds probably don’t favor” passing immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
Duchossois has contributed millions of dollars to Republican candidates and groups, including the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund and McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, this cycle.
“Why we’re using this as a political football frustrates the hell out of me,” Duchossois said, adding that sensible immigration reform is a “win-win situation.”
Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, said the recent bipartisan deal reached on guns, however, renewed some optimism that there is space for both parties to strike a deal on immigration.
Those who signed the letter “are impatient for incremental solutions,” Shi said. “And that’s what we saw this weekend on the bipartisan deal on guns. We … believe that can also happen on immigration with a similar set of negotiators.”