A group of CEOs from major companies including Coca-Cola, Tyson Foods, McDonald’s and Cargill is asking Congress to ease immigration laws to allow more under-skilled workers to enter the country and take jobs that they say can’t be filled by Americans.
The companies wrote a letter to members of Congress, which will be released Tuesday, that said U.S. borders need to be secured. But once secured, illegal immigrants already in the United States should be allowed to work.
“Most unauthorized immigrants are otherwise law-abiding and doing needed work – work that bolsters U.S. prosperity and sustains jobs for Americans,” they wrote. “We should provide them with an opportunity to come forward and earn their way onto the right side of the law.”
But the letter added that more under-skilled workers need to be allowed in each year, since many companies rely on low-skilled workers.
“[O]ur businesses still need less-skilled workers — and the need will only grow in years ahead,” they wrote.
“Congress has an obligation to fill this gap – we need a visa program for less-skilled foreign workers seeking year-round jobs,” the letter said. “Employers should have to try to hire Americans first. But if they can’t find enough U.S. workers, they should be able to hire foreign workers quickly, easily and legally.”
The letter is the latest attempt to pressure Congress to pass some kind of immigration reform this year. While Democrats broadly accept reforms that would give current illegal immigrants legal status, Republicans appear to be more split.
GOP leaders have said so far that they can’t trust President Barack Obama to enforce any new border control measures Congress might pass. That has kept House Republicans from passing even small bills on immigration over the last year.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is one of the more vocal opponents of plans to give legal status to illegal immigrants, and says doing so would reward people for breaking the law.
Sessions also argues that 50 million Americans don’t have jobs right now, and that giving illegal workers legal status would further squeeze U.S. citizens out of jobs they should be getting.
Sessions’ office released information late Monday that said the U.S. already allows 1 million mostly lower-skilled immigrants into the country each year, plus 700,000 guest workers. His office said over the last decade, new job gains mostly went to immigrants, and that this has helped to drive down wages.
Read the CEO letter to Congress here: