Despite several attempts at comprehensive reform, U.S. immigration policy hasn’t seen major changes since the Reagan administration.
The U.S. Chamber is trying to break the logjam, Kevin Cortois told the audience at the Lancaster Chamber’s “Wake Up to the Issues” forum on Thursday.
Cortois is executive director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the U.S. Chamber’s Great Lakes regional office, which includes Pennsylvania.
The tight U.S. labor market has made immigration reform a top priority for his organization, Cortois said: “Businesses want to grow (but) they can’t find the people.”
The chamber is promoting what it has dubbed the “Calling for LIBERTY” campaign, with “LIBERTY” an acronym for “Legal Immigration & Border Enforcement Reform This Year.”
It calls for increased border security, reform and modernization of employment verification requirements and expansion of the number of work visas.
In May, it sent a letter to Congress outlining the objectives. The Lancaster Chamber was among the many signatories.
One piece of legislation the chamber is pushing for is the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act, a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster. It would create an immigration visa system to admit lower-skilled workers into the country for year-round non-agricultural labor, such as construction and hospitality.
Nationwide, immigration declined sharply for several years, initially due to Trump administration policies intended to limit it, then to pandemic-related border closures. The numbers are now rebounding, but analysts say the earlier decline is one of the factors contributing to tight labor markets.
The U.S. Chamber is willing to start small, Cortois said.
“It doesn’t have to be everything at once. … Let’s get something done,” he said.