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GOP lawmaker returns award to protest Chamber of Commerce's immigration policy

BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 22: U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue, second from left and Chairman, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Tamara Lundgren at left, attend a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People on July 22, 2014 in Beijing, China. Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) said Thursday that he refused to accept an award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of that group's position on immigration, and called the Chamber the "biggest pro-amnesty group" in the country.

"The Chamber of Commerce is beholden to special interests and has long since forgotten the main street businesses that struggle everyday to make payroll and keep their company afloat," Bentivolio said. "It is with great pride that I reject their award, and call on them to stand on the side of America, instead of on the side of China and corporate interests seeking to exploit people for profit.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue, second from left, runs a group that supports immigration reform. That position led one GOP lawmaker to reject an award from the Chamber. Pool/Getty Images

"I am with main street, not Wall Street."

Bentivolio's chief of staff, Rob Wasinger, added that the Chamber is "in the pocket of Communist China and big companies seeking cheap labor in the United States."

"We think it is morally repugnant for the chamber to pursue, as a matter of public policy, initiatives which exploit the poor and oppressed, just so they can keep labor costs down for their fortune 500 member companies," Wasinger said.

The Chamber was trying to give Bentivolio the Spirit of Enterprise Award.

Several Republicans have turned on the Chamber after the group came out in favor of the immigration legislation passed by the Senate. Many GOP members say the Senate bill would legalize millions of additional non-U.S. citizens to work, at the expense of millions of Americans who have been out of work so long they are no longer looking for work.

The labor force participation rate in the U.S. has fallen to historic lows over the last few years. But while Republicans say Obama's immigration policy and expanded federal regulations are the reason why millions of people aren't working, the White House has said it's because people are aging out of the workforce, and not enough younger immigrants are being allowed into the country.

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