President Barack Obama invited a group of business leaders, including America Online Inc. co-founder Steve Case, to the White House today to help him press the Senate to pass the first major revision to U.S. immigration law since 1986.
With a critical test vote on the bill set for later today, Obama is seeking to maintain momentum for Senate passage by highlighting the economic benefits of making it easier for skilled workers to get visas, tightening border security and creating a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
“We’ve got a strong bipartisan bill,” Obama said at the start of the White House meeting. “Now’s the time to get comprehensive immigration reform done.”
Obama and the executives planned to review a Congressional Budget Office report that said the Senate bill would cut the budget deficit over the next 10 years by $175 billion while economic growth would gain 3.3 percent as investment and productivity increase. Deficit reduction would climb to about $700 billion over the following decade, as tax collections rise, the CBO said.
Business leaders recognize “immigration is a contributor to growth, contributor to expansion, a creator of jobs,” Obama said. He said they would lobby lawmakers to make sure the legislation gets the “strongest possible vote.”
Senate Democratic leaders say they want to pass a bill before July 4. Senators Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, who have been working on the legislation, said yesterday the measure might win as many as 70 votes in the 100-member Senate. The next challenge is in the House of Representatives, where lawmakers are divided on the issue and Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, have the majority.
Business trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, have joined union leaders to back the bill.
Along with Case, currently chairman and chief executive officer of venture-capital firm Revolution LLC, the others scheduled to attend the White House gathering are Jason Berry, owner of Blueberry Farms of Georgia and Berry Farms; Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.; Sunil Puri, founder, First Rockford Group Inc., a real estate company; Dilawar Syed, CEO of Yonja Media Group; Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, president and CEO of Chobani Inc., producer of Chobani Greek yogurt; Bricia Lopez, co-owner of the Guelaguetza Restaurante in Los Angeles, and San Francisco area entrepreneur Alex Torrenegra.